America Needs Florida’s Secret to Success: Work
From: Foundation for Government Accountability
America works when people work. It’s that simple. When people don’t work it causes many problems – from high inflation to supply chain issues and shortages to stress from people overworked and businesses understaffed to government dependency and hopelessness. Today, amidst increased economic anxiety and decreased faith in our federal institutions’ competence to solve big problems, our elected leaders must act with urgency with proven reforms.
Now, the public is seeing bold action based on proven results. Senator Rick Scott recently unveiled legislation called the Let’s Get to Work Act—the most serious and bold welfare reform proposal in 30 years. It represents a turning point.
The Left continues to insist that we can spend our way out of problems like inflation and worker shortages. Of course, the government largely created those problems by spending money.
But history teaches us that the best way to get America working again is to get Americans back to work. To do that, Congress needs to work more too. That means more proven reform, not more government spending.
We both travel the country explaining to state policymakers how limited their options are for welfare reform under current federal law. States can’t have work requirements in either food stamps or public housing right now, even if they want to. They’re handcuffed, operating auto-pilot hand-out programs that depress their workforces and keep people in poverty.
And the architect of this new plan, Senator Scott, knows it. And he knows how to fix it.
In 2016, when he was the Governor of Florida, Rick Scott built stronger work requirements within these constraints and required all able-bodied adults between 18-49 years old without dependents on food stamps to work, train, or volunteer part-time. After that reform took effect, enrollment in that population declined by 94 percent as able-bodied Floridians went back to work in more than 1,000 different industries and earned higher incomes.
Results that clear and positive are rare in public policy. And it played a big role in making Florida the economic envy it is today.
This new, federal bill builds on those efforts by reinstating the ability of states to implement those work requirements—currently suspended by the Biden administration. It also expands the same requirements to adults between 50-59 and parents of school-age children.
Finally, the plan would build a more universal work requirement by spreading their success to able-bodied adults who receive public housing benefits.
This does more than allow all 50 states—from California to Florida—to design their own policies to build self-sufficiency in low-income households. It gets to the very source of so many of our current problems around inflation, government spending, and a pervasive, crushing dependency that is holding our workforce—and country—back.
Maybe even more importantly, it strengthens our safety net protecting the truly needy. In public housing, for example, the absence of a work requirement for the able-bodied means seniors and individuals with disabilities get stuck on waiting lists behind Americans who can and should be getting back to work and out of public housing.
In Florida, for example, the average Floridian has to wait four years to receive housing assistance in Tallahassee and nine years in Miami. Nine years! Clearly public housing is broken.
Of course, it takes more than good policy to take this big leap forward in welfare reform. It takes strong leadership in Congress. To rebuild faith in our political institutions and leadership, Congress needs to get back to work, too.
And this is exactly the kind of timely, realistic, and transformative project in which a functioning Congress would engage deliberately and thoughtfully. Senator Scott deserves strong praise for showing us what Congress should be doing.
The modern welfare state has encouraged the growth of a welfare industrial complex—an array of organizations that benefit from and defend the status quo.
Inevitably, they will label this proposal as heartless. But there is no heart in stretching a safety net meant for the truly needy beyond sustainability. It is not compassionate to keep someone able-bodied and work-ready in poverty and dependent.
The status quo is indefensible.
Of course, no single piece of legislation will restore our American ethic of work, eliminate inflation or the federal deficit, repair the public’s faith in Congress’s ability to work as it should, or make our welfare programs the hand up they should be.
But this legislation is a massive and vital step in that direction.