President Signs Executive Order on Work Reforms

Earlier today, the President signed an executive order on work reforms titled “Executive Order Reducing Poverty in America by Promoting Opportunity and Economic Mobility.” The executive order is divided into five sections: purpose; policy; review of regulations and guidance documents; definitions; and general provisions. This blog post provides a summary of the executive order.

Click below to read the full post.


The executive order notes that “many of the programs designed to help families have instead delayed economic independence, perpetuated poverty, and weakened family bonds.” Thus, “the welfare system still traps many recipients, especially children, in poverty and is in need of further reform and modernization in order to increase self-sufficiency, well-being, and economic mobility.”


This section directs the Federal Government to reform the welfare system in a manner consistent with the following “Principles of Economic Mobility”:

  1. Improve Employment Outcomes by strengthening existing work requirements and introducing new work requirements, where legally permissible;
  2. Promote strong social networks to escape poverty through work and marriage;
  3. Address the challenges of populations that may struggle to find and maintain employment;
  4. Allow States and other local governmental entities to tailor their public assistance programs to the unique need of their communities;
  5. Reduce the size of bureaucracy and streamline services;
  6. Reserve benefits for people with low incomes and limited assets;
  7. Reduce wasteful spending by consolidating duplicative Federal programs;
  8. Create a system by which the Federal Government remains updated on local government successes and failures and facilitates access to that information; and
  9. Empower the private sector to develop and apply local solutions to poverty.

The executive order also notes that the Federal Government should enforce current work requirements and strengthen work requirements that promote obtaining and maintaining employment. To accomplish this, the Federal Government should do the following:

  1. Review the current federally funded workforce development programs and consolidate programs that are similar in scope or population served; and
  2. Invest in effective workforce development programs and encourage entities that have demonstrated success in equipping participants with skills necessary to obtain employment.

The order also notes that local governments and private sector entities should be empowered to effectively administer and manage public assistance programs. Policies should allow local entities to develop programs an strategies that are best for their communities. To do this, the Federal Government must allow local entities to design and implement programs that better allocate limited resources and Federal leaders should continue to discuss opportunities to improve public assistance programs with State and local leaders.

Finally, the policy section notes that agencies should establish clear metrics that measure outcomes. These metrics should include “assessments of whether programs help individuals and families find employment, increase earnings, escape poverty, and avoid long-term dependence.” Agencies should harmonize metrics for cross-programmatic comparisons. Agencies should also adopt policies ensuring only eligible participants are receiving assistance and aliens who are not otherwise qualified are not receiving assistance. Additionally, all entities that receive funds should be required to guarantee the integrity of their programs, and the Federal Government should support local governments by investing in tools to combat payment errors and verify eligibility.

Review of Regulations and Guidance Documents

Certain federal agencies, including HUD, shall do the following:

  1. Review all regulations and guidance relating to waivers, exemptions, or exceptions to public assistance program eligibility requirements to see if they are consistent with the order;
  2. Review public assistance programs that do not currently require work for receipt of benefits or services and determine whether enforcement of a work requirement would be consistent with Federal law and the principles of this order;
  3. Review public assistance program that do require work and determine whether the enforcement of those work requirements is consistent with the order and Federal law;
  4. Submit a list of regulatory and policy changes to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to comply with this order within 90 days;
  5. Take steps to implement the above recommendations within 90 days of submitting them to OMB;
  6. Within 90 days of the effective date of this order, each agency required to comply with this order shall submit a report to the President with the following information:
    1. How the agencies are ensuring that no “alien” who is not a “qualified alien” is receiving Federal benefits;
    2. provide a list of Federal benefit programs that the agency administers that prevents aliens from receiving Federal benefits; and
    3. provide a list of Federal benefit programs that the agency administers that are not restricted from providing Federal benefits to aliens.


This section defines the terms “individuals,” “families,” and “persons” to mean citizens, lawful permanent residents, or other lawful present aliens. This section also defines “work” and “workforce.” The definition encompasses “unsubsidized employment, subsidized employment, job training, apprenticeships, career and technical education training, job searches, basic education, education directly related to current or future employment, and workfare.” The terms “welfare” and “public assistance” include programs that provide means-tested assistance or other assistance that provides benefits to households that have low incomes, the unemployed, or those out of the labor force.

General Provisions

Nothing in the order should be construed to limit the authority of an agency or limit the function of the OMB. The order should be implemented consistent with applicable law and does not create a right or benefit by a party against the United States.

A fact sheet on the executive order can be found here.

The full executive order can be found here.


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