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Trump Signs Executive Order That Aims to Make Working a Requirement for Federal Aid Programs

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On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that has been in the works since last year. The order, titled “Reduce Poverty in America,” takes aim at “any program that provides means-tested assistance or other assistance that provides benefits to people, household or families that have low incomes,” by requiring cabinets to create work requirements for the programs.

Cabinet departments have 90 days to create plans, containing recommended policy and regulatory changes, that will add work requirements for able-bodied aid recipients using the included programs. They will also have to outline approaches for ensuring ineligible immigrants are blocked from receiving assistance.

Trump aides, according to a report by the New York Times, state that the goal of the order is to take a tougher stance on those receiving aid.

Some departments had already begun the process, prior to the executive order being signed.

The Agriculture Department has been pressuring states to add work requirements to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), while the Department of Health and Human Services earlier this year granted Arkansas a waiver that allowed the state to require Medicaid recipients to either maintain employment, participate in job training programs, or engage in job search activities for a minimum of 80 hours each month.

The executive order also requests that agencies review all waivers and exemptions currently in place with existing mandates. A person may receive an exemption from a work requirement for a variety of reasons, including being actively enrolled in a training program, caring for a relative, or working as a volunteer.

Nine “Principles of Economic Mobility” are also outlined in the order. They include reserving benefits for those who are truly in need, empowering the private sector to identify solutions to poverty, improving employment outcomes, increasing economic independence, and promoting marriage as a pathway out of poverty.

Supporters state that now is an ideal time to add work requirements to programs largely based on unemployment being near record lows.

The work requirements are designed to target working-age, able-bodied adults, so not every aid recipient, such as those with a disability, would need to maintain suitable employment to continue receiving assistance.