Republican State Rep. Andy Holt of Tennessee has introduced new legislation that would require welfare recipients in the state to prove they’re seeking work.
According to a Feb. 16 release on Holt’s website, the law would require able-bodied adults to prove they’ve contacted at least three employers per week, which would then be verified by the Department of Labor.
The law would also encourage welfare recipients to seek jobs in all fields, rather than just in ones they may be more qualified for.
“Under current law, I can say that I’m an underwater basket weaver and simply cannot find a job. Therefore, I still get unemployment,” Holt said in the release. “If there is an available job out there, you should be applying so long as you are able of doing the work.”
Those found to be defrauding the welfare system would be punished immediately, rather than continue to receive benefits for several weeks.
“If you’re caught committing unemployment fraud, and are taking away resources from those that need them most, I don’t care if it’s for one day. You’re out,” Holt said. “So, we’ll be removing that 8 week window that basically legalizes unemployment fraud.”
While more states are implementing new welfare restrictions or reinstating old requirements because of the economy’s rebound, some argue that the system itself is inconsiderate of extenuating circumstances.
Tennessee resident Terry Work told KTOO that her adult son, who is deaf, is considered able-bodied by the state. Although he has difficulty holding on to a job because of his hearing problems, he would be subjected to standards like those proposed by Holt.
Critics are concerned about the shifting standards and their impact nationwide. An estimated 1 million low-income residents in 21 states stand to lose their food stamps due to the work requirements, several of which went into effect in February.
“I know there’s going to be a lot of people in the county hurt by this,” said Work, who founded a social service agency in a community just outside Nashville.