A new report finds a state known as one of the poorest in the nation has moved thousands of citizens off the welfare rolls and back to work.
Citing an extensive study of welfare-to-work Mississippians, researchers at the Foundation for Government Accountability are reporting on a dramatic shift in the state after its Republican governor tightened up work requirements for able-bodied workers, which forced them out of the house and onto a job site.
"We looked at the results of what happened when Governor Phil Bryant instituted work requirements for able-bodied adults, without dependents, on food stamps," says FGA research director Nicholas Horton. "What we found is that after requirements were put into place in Mississippi, Mississippians left the program and very quickly, in fact just over a year after leaving welfare, their incomes more than doubled."
What set the stage for change was a work requirement waiver, which Mississippi was permitting during the "Great Recession," only to witness two percent of able-bodied welfare recipients holding a full-time job.
Gov. Bryant officially ended the waiver effective January 2016, and when workers began to cycle off the welfare rolls and into a job, their progress was tracked by state agencies over the next 18 months with FGA researchers helping document the results.
Among the findings:
*Wages grew an average of 64 percent three months after finding employment and nearly doubled a year after finding employment
*Able-bodied workers found jobs in 716 industries in the state, including jobs in nursing, the steel industry, and manufacturing.
*Approximately three-quarters of workers moved out of low-paying jobs such as retail, using those entry-level jobs as a stepping stone.
*Mississippi’s expenditure on food stamps dropped from $10.7 million monthly to $3 million a month
Other states also loosened their work requirements during the recent “Great Recession” that hurt the job market, Horton explains, but those states are now tightening their requirements since the economy is booming and jobs are plentiful.
"Welfare reform is effective," Horton insists. "It's good for the local economy, but I think more importantly than that, it's good for folks that truly need help because it's freeing up resources for them."
Mississippi, however, continues to be ranked lowest for per capita salary, weekly wages, and unemployment figures.