Eli got at this yesterday, based on an early read from HuffPost Hill. Now, Pete Stark has introduced his bill called the Women’s Option to Raise Kids (WORK) Act, which would allow low-income mothers with children up to 3 years old to classify their child-rearing responsibilities as work, just the way Ann Romney did:
Current law does not count low-income stay-at-home parents who are raising young children as meeting the necessary Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) work requirement. Current law also bans states from counting these individuals toward that state’s work participation rate, which can result in financial penalties if not met. This effectively bars low-income parents who choose to stay home to raise their young children from access to the financial support of TANF.
The WORK Act would amend TANF law to recognize the critical job of raising children age three or younger as work. Under the legislation, low-income parents could work, receive job training, search for work, or raise their children until they are school-aged without fear of losing TANF support and being pushed deeper into poverty. This is the same option that wealthy families, such as the Romneys, enjoy.
The WORK Act has the usual suspects as co-sponsors, including Progressive Caucus members John Lewis (D-GA), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Rosa DeLauro (D-CA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), and Laura Richardson (D-CA). But something that backs Republicans, and Mitt Romney, into a corner in this fashion should have far more than 12 co-sponsors. The entire point of the Ann Romney hissy fit was that raising kids equals work and ought to be respected. Nobody disagreed with that idea. All this bill would do would be to codify that principle into law, so that stay-at-home single moms can benefit from welfare in the early years of raising children.
As Stark says, “I think we should take Mr. Romney at his most recent word and change our federal laws to recognize the importance and legitimacy of raising young children. That’s why I’ve introduced the WORK Act to provide low-income parents the option of staying home to raise young children without being pushed into poverty.”
This solves a public policy problem as well. As we’ve seen recently, welfare reform’s flaws have been exposed by the Great Recession. Only 27% of families living in poverty can claim welfare benefits. And one of the major problems, outside of giving states flexibility to cull their welfare rolls, is the work requirement. This would help alleviate that problem for low-income mothers with newborn children.
I don’t know why the Senate doesn’t introduce this today. Mitt Romney said during the depressing Hilary Rosen kerfuffle that “all moms are working moms.” Well, OK, let them prove it.
More from Ryan Grim.