Welfare Reform – Kansas

More Kansans will drop from welfare rolls as requirements stiffen, By Andy Marso, November 11, 2016, Salina Post: “For Ashlyn Harcrow, the sound of the train whistle brings up all kinds of thoughts she’d like to avoid.  Harcrow, 24, has been living at the Topeka Rescue Mission since July. The nonprofit homeless shelter has helped her stabilize as she recovers from domestic violence and tries to improve her mental health amid post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety.  But the mission, at 600 N. Kansas Ave., is right next to the tracks. As trains rumble through north Topeka, they remind Harcrow that she’s thought about using those tracks to take her own life.  ‘All these trains that go by here,’ she says, ‘it don’t help.’  Harcrow would like to leave the mission and get her own place. But it’s a financial impossibility until she gets her mental health on track so she can return to the workforce…”

Welfare Reform – Kansas

  • New Kansas law revives debate over welfare restrictions, By Megan Hart, May 17, 2016, Salina Post: “The legislative battle may be over, but the war of words continues about a bill that imposes new restrictions on Kansas welfare recipients. Gov. Sam Brownback signed Senate Bill 402 on Monday at the Statehouse flanked by legislative supporters of the measure. The new law lowers the lifetime limit for those receiving cash assistance under the Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) program from three years to two years, with the possibility of a one-year hardship extension. It also tightens work requirements and penalties for not cooperating with fraud investigations…”
  • Gov. Brownback signs new limits on welfare, Associated Press, May 17, 2016, Kansas City Star: “Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback touted the welfare limits he signed into law Monday as a way to free recipients from the grip of poverty, but critics argued some families could be left without a safety net during financial difficulties. The changes in public assistance eligibility are a continuation of the 2015 HOPE Act, a law designed to move families off of welfare and into the workforce. The new law will reduce the lifetime limit on cash assistance from 36 to 24 months, although the state can grant an extension of up to 12 months…”

Single Adults in Poverty – Ontario, CA

Ontario’s soaring poverty gap ‘starkest’ for single adults as welfare rates stagnate, By Laurie Monsebraaten, May 9, 2016, Toronto Star: “After five years on welfare, Pauline Bryant figures she was probably over-qualified to help others ‘get by on next to nothing’ as a part-time community engagement worker last year. Although the job gave Bryant an extra $600 a month, it didn’t provide medical benefits or enough money to escape welfare. But it eased her sense of isolation…”

Welfare Reform – Kansas

Kansas lawmakers approve ‘step therapy’ and welfare reform bill, By Melissa Hellmann (AP), May 2, 2016, Topeka Capital-Journal: “Kansas legislators approved a health and public welfare bill Monday that would reduce prescription drug costs within the state’s Medicaid program and make changes to eligibility for public assistance.  Senators voted 27-13 in favor of the measure early Monday after the House approved it in a 79-43 vote. The measure will now go to Gov. Sam Brownback, who has touted welfare reform in the past…”

Safety Net Programs for Poor Families

  • The end of welfare as we know it, By Alana Semuels, April 1, 2016, The Atlantic: “By the numbers, welfare reform was a success. More than 13 million people received cash assistance from the government in 1995, before the law was passed. Today, just 3 million do. ‘Simply put, welfare reform worked because we all worked together,’ Bill Clinton, who signed into law welfare reform, or the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, wrote in an op-ed in The New York Times in 2006. Clinton had campaigned on a pledge to ‘end welfare as we know it’ and today it is all too apparent that he succeeded…”
  • Welfare time limits save Michigan millions, but cost 32,090 families, By Emily Lawler, April 5, 2016, MLive: “Since Michigan enacted sweeping welfare changes nearly five years ago, more than $62 million has been saved. But for 32,090 families, those savings means they can never get cash assistance, even in the most dire of emergencies. In 2011, Michigan’s legislature tightened and started enforcing time limits on cash assistance, or what the state calls its Family Independence Program. The move was swift…”
  • Maine’s welfare policies have taken a turn, with dire consequences for kids, By Sandy Butler and Luisa Deprez, March 8, 2016, Bangor Daily News: “Changes in public policy motivated by politics, not facts, have been disastrous for Maine children. Since Congress passed ‘welfare reform’ 20 years ago, it has become increasingly clear that many of these so-called reforms have failed, leaving many parents and children in deeper poverty without sustainable employment. Many of these policies simply were not based in the realities of people’s lives and ignore the economic environment people are living in. They are unsupported by social science research or evidence and have left far too many families and children behind…”
  • Stripping D.C.’s poor families of their last income source, By Judith Sandalow, March 11, 2016, Washington Post: “Winter snowstorms send most parents into panic mode. When my boys were young, I remember doing the calculations. Are schools closed? Can I find someone to watch them? It’s even more of a burden for families struggling to make ends meet. Their list of questions grows more urgent. If I miss my shift at work, will I get fired? Is there enough food in the house to feed the kids? How are we going to stay warm when the heat’s been turned off..?”
  • Legislature battles over poverty – but agreement possible, By Matthew Albright, April 5, 2016, News Journal: “When DuPont Co. came calling, it took the General Assembly only days to pass a pair of corporate tax breaks worth tens of millions of dollars. But after Democrats and Republicans alike sprinted to protect high-end research and management jobs, lawmakers are now deliberating on how to help those on the opposite end of the income ladder – those languishing in poverty. Some of that discussion has already bogged down in familiar partisan battlefields, like debates over the minimum wage and the size and scope of a taxpayer-funded safety net…”

TANF Work Requirements – Ohio

Ohio wants easing of federal welfare-to-work rules, By Catherine Candisky, November 2, 2015, Columbus Dispatch: “Gov. John Kasich’s administration has asked federal regulators for greater flexibility in work requirements to help prepare welfare recipients for jobs. The Republican governor continues to support mandating work and education for most adults receiving public benefits. But state officials say federal rules are ‘overly prescriptive’ and make it difficult to prepare welfare recipients for jobs…”

Participation in Public Assistance Programs

  • What it really means to rely on food stamps and welfare, By Emily Badger, May 29, 2015, Washington Post: “Public dependence isn’t a permanent condition, although we often talk about people in need of government aid as if they constitute some kind of fixed class — as if welfare recipients have always needed welfare, as if the families on food stamps today are exactly the same ones on food stamps a decade ago.  The reality is that Americans who need government aid, like Americans living below the poverty line, represent a shifting population…”
  • 1 in 5 Americans receive government assistance: food stamps, welfare, Medicaid details, By Rich Exner, May 28, 2015, Cleveland Plain Dealer: “One in five Americans received monthly assistance from at least one of a variety of government programs throughout  2012, a report issued Thursday by the Census Bureau says. The report estimated that 52.2 million Americans — or 21.3 percent of the people in the United States — received assistance each month during 2012…”
  • Census: No. of Americans on assistance may be leveling off, By Jesse Holland (AP), May 28, 2015, Lexington Herald-Leader: “The once-increasing number of Americans getting some kind of public assistance from the U.S. government may be slowing down, according to new information from the U.S. Census Bureau. Approximately 52.2 million Americans — or 21.3 percent — participated in one or more of six poverty assistance programs on average each month in 2012, a new Census report released Thursday said. Although higher than the 20.9 percent found in 2011, government officials said the 2012 number is not a statistically significant change from the previous year’s.

Welfare Time Limits – Arizona

Arizona sharply limits welfare to 12 months, Associated Press, May 20, 2015, Arizona Republic: “Facing a $1 billion budget deficit, Arizona’s Republican-led Legislature has reduced the lifetime limit for welfare recipients to the shortest window in the nation. Low-income families on welfare will now have their benefits cut off after just 12 months. As a result, the Arizona Department of Economic Security will drop at least 1,600 families — including more than 2,700 children — from the state’s federally funded welfare program on July 1, 2016…”

Cash Assistance and Work Requirements – Ohio

Ohio counties kick people off welfare to satisfy feds, By Josh Jarman, March 13, 2015, Columbus Dispatch: “Threatened with the loss of millions of dollars in federal money because not enough of its welfare recipients were working, Franklin County did what many other counties across the state did: It kicked people off welfare.  Instead of helping more of Franklin County’s poorest residents find jobs in the years following the Great Recession, the county slashed the unemployed from its welfare caseload. That raised the percentage of the remaining participants who were working.  And that’s the only benchmark the federal government requires counties to meet to keep getting money…”

Welfare-to-Work Programs

  • ‘Welfare-to-work’ brings $455,000 into county, By Anna Rumer, February 27, 2015, Zanesville Times Recorder: “Muskingum County’s ‘welfare-to-work’ program is one of the most effective in the state, bringing nearly a half-million dollars in state funding into the county while providing almost 250 people with a second chance at gainful employment.  The Ohio Work Incentive Program, commonly referred to as ‘welfare-to-work,’ is a collaboration between local human services and OhioMeansJobs that allows people receiving cash assistance to forgo their usual 130 hours of work programs required per month to collect welfare and connects them to a paying job…”
  • From welfare to work: Massachusetts Senate to focus on developing path for aid recipients to fill jobs, By Shira Schoenberg, February 17, 2015, MassLive: “The Massachusetts Senate plans to use the upcoming legislative session to develop a strategy to move more people off welfare and into jobs, Senate President Stan Rosenberg, D-Amherst, said Tuesday.  ‘Not long ago, Massachusetts was the pioneering state on workfare,’ Rosenberg said. ‘Massachusetts in recent years has fallen significantly behind most other states and is one of worst performing in the country in helping people move from welfare to work.’  The effort, referred to as the ‘WorkFirst Initiative,’ will be led by state Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, and will involve coordination between legislative committees that deal with the economy, education, families and public assistance…”
  • California senator says ‘welfare queen’ law must go, By Christopher Cadelago, February 22, 2015, Sacramento Bee: “The law passed two decades ago, with Democrats in charge of the Legislature: In California, a family that conceives and births an additional child while on welfare is barred from getting an increase in its grant.  Today, with Democrats still in the majority, the measure’s base of support is eroding. Advocates for the poor are mounting their strongest effort yet to repeal the so-called ‘maximum family grant’ rule, a big-ticket spending item that could bleed into state budget talks…”

Safety Net Programs and the Poor

Aid to needy often excludes the poorest in America, By Patricia Cohen, February 16, 2015, New York Times: “The safety net helped keep Camille Saunders from falling, but not Charles Constance. The difference? Ms. Saunders has a job, and Mr. Constance does not. And therein lies a tale of a profound shift in government support for low-income Americans at a time when stagnating wages and unstable schedules have kept many workers living near or below the poverty line. Assistance to needy Americans has grown at a gallop since the mid-1980s, giving a hand up to the disabled, the working poor and married couples with children. At the same time, though, government aid directed at the nation’s poorest individuals has shrunk…”

State Welfare Reforms

  • Republican governors push to reshape welfare programs, By Damian Paletta and Mark Peters, December 15, 2014, Wall Street Journal: “A large number of Republican governors are pushing to reshape social-welfare programs with drug testing or other requirements, arguing that the new rules better prepare recipients for employment and assure taxpayers that the benefit money is well spent. Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, fresh off his re-election, said he would propose his state join several others in mandating drug screening for people seeking nutrition or cash assistance. Utah Republicans want to require that certain residents allow the state to assist them in finding a job if they want to collect benefits through Medicaid, the health-care program for low-income and disabled Americans. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is proposing Medicaid recipients kick in at least a few dollars a month as a condition for receiving benefits…”
  • LePage to pursue welfare restrictions, more job training in 2015, commissioner says, By Michael Shepherd, December 17, 2014, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel: “Gov. Paul LePage will pursue restrictions on food stamps and cash welfare benefits and expand job training to Medicaid recipients when the Maine Legislature convenes next month, one of his top lieutenants said on Wednesday. The proposed welfare limitations, outlined by Mary Mayhew, commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, are nothing new. The Republican governor tried unsuccessfully to get those ideas through the Democrat-led Legislature over the past two years. He may struggle to get them through a Democrat-led House of Representatives this year…”

General Assistance and Immigrants – Maine

  • For couple who escaped from Angola, General Assistance ‘gives us a chance’, By Sandy Butler and Luisa Deprez, September 26, 2014, Bangor Daily News: “Robert and Elena (not their real names) live in Lewiston with four of their five children. They escaped from their homeland of Angola having lost their livelihood, enduring torture and fearing for their lives. Elena came first, one year ago, with their three daughters, ages 7 through 11, having experienced physical and sexual abuse at the hands of the government after being falsely accused of connections to an anti-government separatist group. Robert followed eight months later, when the government started pursuing him. He brought their five-year-old son, but could not afford to bring along his elder, eight-year old son, who remains with family in Angola. They hope to bring him to Maine as soon as possible. General Assistance provided Robert and his family needed emergency assistance when they arrived…”
  • Governor candidates on the issues: Welfare and immigration, By Randy Billings, October 16, 2014, Portland Press Herald: “Welfare has emerged as a high-profile issue in the 2014 gubernatorial race, with ads about illegal immigrants receiving tax dollars filling the airwaves and mailboxes. The University of New Hampshire Survey Center has conducted two polls for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. In June, 46 percent of poll respondents believed that welfare did more harm than good. By September, that sentiment was 50 percent. Maine’s welfare system is a complex web of programs, including MaineCare – the state’s Medicaid program – Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps). The programs are mostly funded by federal money…”

Public Assistance Receipt

  • Welfare rates vary widely by state and city, By Carol Morello, September 2, 2014, Washington Post: “The Washington and Baltimore metro areas, along with Miami and three Texas cities, have the lowest share of residents on public assistance, according to statistics released Tuesday by the Census Bureau. The figures do not necessarily show where economic need is the greatest. Instead, they reflect the different approaches that states have taken to welfare, particularly during the recession, when some states changed eligibility rules and lowered benefits to cope with budget shortfalls…”
  • 1-in-30 Ohioans received a welfare check in 2012, Census report shows, By Rich Exner, September 2, 2014, Cleveland Plain Dealer: “About 3.3 percent of Ohioans received welfare checks at some point in 2012, up from 2.9 percent in 2000, the year the state began limiting how long people could remain in the program. Nationally, 2.9 percent received at least one welfare or general assistance check in 2012, up from 2.6 percent in 2000, a Census Bureau report issued Tuesday shows…”

Bolsa Familia Program – Brazil

Social workers channel Indiana Jones to deliver welfare checks to Brazil’s Amazon, By Stephen Kurczy, August 27, 2014, Christian Science Monitor: “The orange boat racing up the Amazon River tributary is loaded with the essentials for fighting poverty in the jungle: a chainsaw and a dozen social workers. The river has swollen some 60 feet with the rainy season, and the captain looks out for logs and branches that might rip into the hull. He’s also looking for signs of human life in this dense jungle, one of the poorest regions in Brazil’s vast territory. The boat turns down an inlet nearly invisible through the dense green overgrowth, and the team spots an elderly man casting a fishing net. It’s apparent he’s blind as he feels his way to shore, his right thumb missing from a past piranha attack. ‘How good is God?’ the man calls out, his skin rough and wrinkled like worn leather. ‘I’ve been praying for you to come, and suddenly you’re here,’ he tells the social workers. This expedition is part of Busca Ativa, or ‘active search,’ a federal program to extend social welfare entitlements to the hardest-to-reach areas of Brazil…”

Income Inequality

  • Growth has been good for decades. So why hasn’t poverty declined? By Neil Irwin, June 4, 2014, New York Times: The surest way to fight poverty is to achieve stronger economic growth. That, anyway, is a view embedded in the thinking of a lot of politicians and economists. ‘The federal government,’ Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, wrote in The Wall Street Journal, ‘needs to remember that the best anti-poverty program is economic growth,’ which is not so different from the argument put forth by John F. Kennedy (in a somewhat different context) that ‘a rising tide lifts all boats.’ In Kennedy’s era, that had the benefit of being true. From 1959 to 1973, the nation’s economy per person grew 82 percent, and that was enough to drive the proportion of the poor population from 22 percent to 11 percent. . .”
  • Income inequality is not the biggest economic threat to women, By Joanne Weiner, June 4, 2014, Washington Post:  “How do we get rid of income inequality and poverty? One rather obvious way, according to the Economic Policy Institute, is to pay people more. ‘Raising wages is the central economic challenge of our time—essential to addressing income inequality, boosting living standards for the broad middle-class, reducing poverty, and sustaining economic growth,’ according to the briefing paper announcing the ‘Raising America’s Pay’ initiative that the EPI is launching Wednesday. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez is scheduled to deliver the keynote address at EPI’s Washington offices. . .”

Public Assistance Eligibility

  • Legislation restricting food stamps, welfare advancesBy Michelle Millhollon, May 21, 2014, New Orleans Advocate: “Welfare recipients would be unable to use their federal benefits at liquor stores, nail salons, bars, cruise ships and psychic businesses under legislation that cleared a Senate committee Wednesday. The Senate Committee on Health and Welfare also tackled food stamp recipients. The panel advanced legislation that would cut off grocery assistance for Tangipahoa Parish residents without small children unless they seek an education or job training. House Bill 1176 would put into state law what already exists in state rules. Welfare benefits aren’t supposed to be used for the purchase of alcohol. . .”
  • Rejecting Bloomberg Policies, New York City Will Ease Some Hurdles to Public AssistanceBy Kate Taylor, May 19, 2014, New York Times: “The new commissioner of New York City’s Human Resources Administration on Monday announced a set of sweeping changes that would remove some work requirements and other barriers to receiving public assistance, cheering advocates for the poor and underscoring the sharp change in direction by Mayor Bill de Blasio away from the welfare policies of his predecessor. In the most significant change announced by the commissioner, Steven Banks, adults without children will no longer have to work full-time to receive food stamps. In addition, the city will start a pilot program to allow people receiving welfare up to five excused absences from their employment programs for illness or family emergency. The agency will also create a system to make calls or send text messages reminding welfare recipients of appointments. . .”
  • Missouri Legislature passes bill lifting lifetime ban from food stamps for drug felonsBy Marie French, May 15, 2014, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “An 18-year-old ban that keeps anyone with a drug-related felony conviction from receiving food assistance from the state would be lifted under a bill sent to Gov. Jay Nixon on Thursday. The measure lifts the lifetime ban but imposes a one-year wait after a conviction or release from custody. It also requires that the individual either not need a treatment program, complete one or be on a waiting list. After three drug-related felonies, they would no longer be eligible for food stamps. Christine McDonald, of St. Charles, has been advocating for the state to change the program for more than five years. She is a recovered drug addict who is also blind. She now works to help former prostitutes like herself and runs a charity. . .”

Shift in Government Aid

Poorest Poor Left Out of Government Aid, By Tami Luhby, May 15, 2014, CNN Money: “Many Americans think the poorest of the poor are simply sitting on their couch and collecting an ever-growing government check. Actually, their benefits have been shrinking.Government aid has been shifting to working families just above the poverty line leaving those at the bottom with a very thin safety net. These very poor households have incomes below 50% of the poverty threshold: a single-parent family with two children earning less than than $8,700 a year. This group saw their assistance fall 19% between 1983 and 2010, according to research by Robert Moffitt. . .”

Electronic Benefit Transfer Cards and Fraud – Maine

  • A Maine family’s struggle to beat back welfare fraud allegations, By Luisa Deprez and Sandy Butler, May 2, 2014, Bangor Daily News: “There has been much discussion recently about fraud among Maine residents receiving government assistance. The LePage administration claims fraud is rampant, yet Maine’s attorney general notes that she has prosecuted only 37 Department of Health and Human Services cases in the last three years. Advocates for the poor also disagree, noting that claims of fraud are ill defined and greatly overblown…”
  • Despite federal warnings, program to put photos on EBT cards begins in Bangor, By Mario Moretto, April 28, 2014, Bangor Daily News: “A pilot program intended to strengthen the integrity of Maine’s welfare programs kicked off Monday in Bangor, where some recipients of public assistance funds traded in benefit cards for new ones featuring photo identification. The new project adds a photo ID to electronic benefits transfer cards, which are used like debit cards by welfare recipients. The cards carry funds that can be used to buy food through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, and cash benefits through a program known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families…”

TANF Applicants – Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania denies 75 percent of welfare applicants, By Kate Giammarise, April 20, 2014, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “The vast majority of applicants for welfare benefits in Pennsylvania are rejected every month, data from the state show, and some blame a 2012 change in state law for sharply increasing the rate at which people are rejected from the program. About 75 percent or more applicants for cash assistance are turned down every month — leaving needy families without aid, advocates say. The change? Beginning in July 2012, state law required applicants to apply to at least three jobs a week — including while their application for assistance is still pending, which can be several weeks. Previously, an applicant would be required to fulfill the program’s work requirement after being approved for assistance, rather than prior to approval…”