Diane Black’s Welfare Reform Plan to Lift Tennesseans Out of Poverty and Save Taxpayer Dollars

“Every human being knows the dignity of work,” said Diane Black. “We need to incentivize those on welfare to become independent citizens so they can reach their God-given potential.  Every person has a skillset they can use to improve their life.  A successful family is built on a stable job.  Government should not stand in the way by making it harder to work or by creating dependency.” 

Diane Black’s Plan to Reform Welfare in Tennessee:

A hand up, not a handout:

  • Reform Licensing: State government makes it too expensive to get qualified for too many jobs.  For example, until last year, you had to take 300 hours of coursework to get a license to wash hair.  You still have to have a license to braid hair.  This keeps future small business owners from getting to the first rung on the ladder of success.
  • Encourage marriage: Our state shouldn’t decrease benefits for couples that decide to wed.  Marriage should be encouraged by public policy, not discouraged.  I will ensure that state benefits will not be reduced because a couple decides to get married.  Marriage and a job are the keys to escaping poverty.
  • Create the right incentives: I will implement performance-based requirements for vendors.  Contracts will be based on how effective vendors are in reducing welfare rolls and saving taxpayer dollars. 

Affordable access to quality healthcare:

  • Reform county health departments: County health departments provided primary care to the Medicaid population prior to enactment of TennCare.  TennCare decimated this system.  It’s time to bring it back.
  • Our county health departments can once again function as a primary care provider – use a sliding fee scale based on income for services.

Lifting Tennesseans out of poverty:

Welfare should be temporary. It should help lift people out of poverty, not create a culture of dependence. As Governor, I will speed up the off-ramp. 

  • Require photo ID on EBT cards: Fraud is a problem. Our state should be doing everything it can to make sure welfare dollars are actually going to those in need. 
  • Require co-pays for TennCare:  Too many people who can afford co-pays are not paying them.
  • Reduce the total lifetime TANF benefit: Tennessee and 32 other states allow a total lifetime TANF benefit of 60 months.  Twelve states have lower limits.  While we have historically low employment, it’s time to free people from the burden of government dependence.
  • Institute work requirements for TennCare: We need to take full advantage of President Trump’s plan to allow states to impose work requirements for able-bodied Medicaid recipients.
  • Increase penalties for violations: Tennessee is lax when it comes to suspending benefits for violating work requirements – we suspend one month for first violation, two months for second violation and three months for the third violation.  Federal law allows us to suspend benefits for three months upon the first violation. 
  • Reduce the time recipients can “rollover” unused SNAP funds:  Currently, a recipient can keep unused SNAP funds for 12 months.  We should reduce that to two months.  After all, the “S” stands for supplemental.
  • Ensure nutrition in SNAP purchases:  While liberals may mock this idea, nutritious food for the needy was the bipartisan goal of the original legislation: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. 

Rethink the Unemployment Insurance program:

  • Pilot a project to offer stipends to recipients in “on the job” training programs.  A recipient would receive skills, and a company offering the training would get to evaluate a potential employee at no cost.
  • Similarly, offer bonuses for those who leave the Unemployment Insurance program.  Other states have seen success with this idea, Tennessee should try it as well.
  • Institute “active case management” practices to increase re-employment.  Too often, the state looks at how many applications have been submitted – not how many individuals have gotten a job to improve their quality of life and be a contributing citizen.