H.R. 890: Preserving Work Requirements for Welfare Programs Act of 2013

H.R. 890

Preserving Work Requirements for Welfare Programs Act of 2013

Rep. Dave Camp

March 13, 2013 (113th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact

Floor Situation

On Wednesday, March 13, 2013, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 890, the Preserving Work Requirements for Welfare Programs Act of 2013, under a rule.  H.R. 890 was introduced on February 28, 2013 by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Camp (R-MI) and reported out of the Ways and Means Committee on March 6, 2013 by a 21-14 vote. H.R. 987, which extends TANF at baseline levels through December 31, 2013, was added to the Rules Committee print of H.R. 890. 

Bill Summary

H.R. 890 prohibits the Secretary of Health and Human Services from waiving work requirements in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.  Specifically, the legislation prevents the Secretary from finalizing, implementing, enforcing or otherwise taking any action to give effect to the Information Memorandum that was issued on July 12, 2012 by the Department of Health and Human Services, as it relates to the TANF program and its work requirement. The prohibition includes any administration action that relates to the work requirement or any similar policy.

In addition, H.R. 890 prohibits the Secretary from authorizing, approving, renewing, modifying or extending any experimental, pilot, or demonstration project under Section 1115 of the Social Security Act that waives compliance with Section 407, the mandatory work requirement, contained in TANF.  The prohibition includes any expenditure that is otherwise not allowable under a state program as it relates to the work requirement.  The bill rescinds and nullifies any waiver relating to the work requirement that has been granted prior to enactment of H.R. 890.

Finally, the bill reauthorizes the TANF and related programs through December 31, 2013 at baseline levels.


On July 12, 2012, the Department of Health and Human Services issued Information Memorandum No. TANF-ACF-2012-03.  The memorandum encouraged states to come up with new ways to meet TANF goals as they related to “employment-related outcomes.”[1]  The Administration’s rule would have the effect of allowing states to opt out of TANF’s work requirement for the first time since welfare reform’s passage in 1996.[2]

The reforms made by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (welfare reform) ended the waiver authority previously granted under the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program.  The reforms provided states with the flexibility to design their own TANF programs in exchange for federal funding.  In addition, the reforms required states to impose a work requirement for welfare recipients.[3]  Specifically, 50 percent of all families and 90 percent of two-parent families that receive TANF benefits must work or be engaged in a work-related activity, including job training.[4]

The work requirements have been instrumental in lifting individuals and families out of poverty.  According to the House Ways and Means Committee report issued last year, “between 1996 and 2000, employment of single mothers increased by 15 percent; earnings for female-headed households remained higher in 2009 than in 1996 despite shifting economic conditions; TANF caseloads decreased by 57 percent through December 2011; and child poverty has decreased dramatically and continues below levels in the 1990s.[5]   Allowing the Administration’s rule to move forward would significantly undermine this progress.

In the 112th Congress, the House passed H.J.Res. 118, a resolution to disapprove of the July 12 rule by a vote of 250-164 (See Roll Call Vote#589). For more information on H.J.Res. 118, please click here.

Key Policy Points

  1. 1.    HHS on July 12, 2012 issued “guidance” suggesting it would allow States to waive work requirements for welfare recipients for the first time.
  2. 2.    Waiving welfare work requirements as the Administration proposes will weaken welfare to work programs, reducing work and increasing welfare spending.
  3. 3.    Congress should repeal HHS’ waiver plan and prevent the Administration from waiving the work requirements. That’s what H.R. 890 does.
  4. 4.    Current law, legislative intent, and historical precedent confirm HHS does not have the authority to waive welfare work requirements.
  5. 5.    It’s time to put this debate behind us and get on with real TANF reauthorization.

[1] See TANF-ACF-IM 2012-03 at http://acf.hhs.gov/programs/ofa/resource/policy/im-ofa/2012/im201203/im201203.

[2] See House Ways and Means Committee Report 112-677 page 2.

[3] See House Ways and Means Committee Report 112-677 citing PL 104-193.

[4] See PL 104-193.

[5] See id at page 6.


On March 8, 2013, CBO estimated that enacting H.R. 890 would reduce direct spending by $61 million over the 2013-2023 period. Pay-as you-go procedures apply because the bill affects direct spending.  The net changes in outlays as it relates to pay-as-you-go, according to CBO, demonstrate a deficit reduction of $61 million over the 2013-2023 period. See CBO cost estimate for H.R. 890.  CBO has confirmed that the part of this legislation related to the extension of the TANF program through December 31, 2013 has no additional cost since it is reauthorized at baseline levels.