Chandler raises concerns about reversing welfare reform

'This bill forces people from WorkFirst to WorkLast,' says 15th District lawmaker


The House of Representatives, in a late night debate, approved a bill which would dramatically expand the state's largest welfare program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), also known as WorkFirst. Rep. Bruce Chandler, R-Granger, voted against the measure.

House Bill 3141 would expand eligibility for subsidized daycare and emphasize enrollment in education and training programs over searching for work.

“This bill forces people from 'WorkFirst' to 'WorkLast,'” Chandler said. “This legislation will hurt struggling families who need more opportunities to become independent and prosperous. People are empowered when they work; they have goals and hopes for the future.”

Proponents of House Bill 3141 stated the economic recession has hindered people's ability to find work, and the requirements for finding work while receiving help from the state should reflect that reality.

“I understand there are less jobs out there. Clark and Skamania counties in my district are especially suffering with high unemployment rates,” Chandler said. “With an economic downturn, the Legislature needs to focus on creating jobs and opportunities, not forcing more reliance on government.”

WelfareReformChartThe number of families on welfare in Washington has dropped more than 51 percent since welfare reform was adopted in 1996. Even with a recent uptick in cases, it is still far below the levels seen at the time of reform.

“The record is success is clear, and we must not retreat from those historic reforms,” Chandler said. “It's time to work harder to move people into meaningful employment and off welfare. The governor herself said she wants to expedite getting people back to work with this program, and I agree.”

The 15th District lawmaker said he is especially disappointed the intent of the TANF program would be repealed under the proposed legislation. The current intent of the program is: “All applicants to the Washington WorkFirst program shall be focused on obtaining paid, unsubsidized employment. The focus of the Washington WorkFirst program shall be work for all recipients.”

“Removing the intent of the program will result in unfettered expansion of welfare for anything the Legislature deems reasonable at the time, without relying on what really works to bring people out of poverty,” Chandler said. “There is no good reason to do away with 14 years of a successful program which has helped so many people get back to work and lead successful lives.”

The House passed the bill 51-43. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Contact: Sarah Lamb, public information officer, (360) 786-7720


Washington State House Republican Communications