Welfare Reform – Maine, Alabama

  • Heavily debated welfare reforms go nowhere in Maine House, By Steve Mistler, April 4, 2014, Portland Press Herald: “Democrats in the House of Representatives rejected three welfare reform proposals by Gov. Paul LePage on Thursday while giving preliminary approval to a significantly altered version of a fourth. Mostly along party lines, the Democrat-controlled House voted 83-61 to approve a proposal to add smoke shops to a current law that prohibits electronic benefit transfer card transactions at certain locations, including liquor stores and casinos. The bill replaces the governor’s proposal to ban EBT card use for bail, alcohol, lottery tickets or tobacco products. Three other proposals, all related to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which distributes cash benefits to about 8,000 Maine families, were rejected in partly-line votes…”
  • Four welfare bills signed into law by Gov. Robert Bentley, By Mike Cason, April 10, 2014, Huntsville Times: “Gov. Robert Bentley has signed into law a bill requiring people applying for cash welfare benefits to first apply for three jobs before becoming eligible. The governor signed SB 115 by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, on Wednesday. ‘People are willing to help those in need, but they also expect those that are seeking taxpayer assistance to attempt to help themselves first,’ Orr said. SB 115 applies to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, which provides monthly cash benefits to low-income families with children. As of December 2013, about 19,000 households in Alabama were receiving TANF. The average monthly benefit was $191…”

Welfare Reform – Louisiana, Maine

  • Louisiana bans welfare benefits usage at lingerie shops, jewelry stores, tattoo parlors, By Renita D. Young, March 21, 2014, New Orleans Times-Picayune: “State welfare officials are tightening the reins on how residents can use cash benefits they receive from assistance programs. Louisiana’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) issued an emergency rule Thursday (March 20) that would eventually ban the use of welfare benefits at jewelry stores, lingerie shops and other establishments that don’t allow customers under 18 years of age…”
  • LePage pushes new legislation to control, curb welfare cash, By Chris Williams, March 23, 2014, Bangor Daily News: “As promised earlier this year, Gov. Paul LePage filed four bills Friday aimed at tightening restrictions on the use of electronic benefit cards used by welfare recipients. Democrats said certain elements of the governor’s proposals raise red flags; they urged him to instead focus his administration’s efforts on enforcement of current welfare fraud crimes…”

Drug Testing and Assistance Programs

Drug tests falter as way for states to deny public aid, By Steven Yaccino, October 25, 2013, New York Times: “With safety-net spending under review around the country, proposals to make welfare and unemployment checks contingent on drug testing have become a routine rallying cry in dozens of states. But the impact of drug-testing measures has been limited. Supporters say the tests are needed to protect welfare and unemployment compensation funds as the nation emerges from the recession. But their enactment has often been hampered by legal challenges and the expense of running the programs, which generally uncover relatively few drug users…”

Low-Wage Workers and Public Assistance Programs

  • Fast-food workers cost taxpayers nearly $7 billion in welfare costs, By David Migoya, October 15, 2013, Denver Post: “Fast-food workers cost taxpayers nearly $7 billion in welfare costs each year, according to a study issued Tuesday by the University of California at Berkeley. That’s because the workers at restaurants such as Wendy’s and McDonald’s are forced onto the public dole from wages that are too low for them to get by, the study found. The study found that about 52 percent of fast-food workers receive some form of public assistance, compared with 25 percent of the general workforce. A similar study was also issued by the National Employment Law project…”
  • Public assistance for fast-food workers costs taxpayers, reports say, By Diane Stafford, October 15, 2013, Kansas City Star: “Low-paying jobs in the fast-food industry exact a multibillion-dollar cost on U.S. taxpayers, according to two national reports released Tuesday. U.S. taxpayers pay about $7 billion a year to support Medicaid, food stamps and other public assistance programs for fast-food workers who earn poverty-level wages, a team of university researchers said in one of the reports…”

Government Shutdown and Affected Services

  • Government shutdown jeopardizes low-income families, Associated Press, October 4, 2013, Patriot-News: “Jacob Quick is a fat and happy 4-month-old with a big and expensive appetite. Like millions of other poor women, Jacob’s mother relies on the federal Women, Infants and Children program to pay for infant formula — aid that is now jeopardized by the government shutdown. Pennsylvania and other states say they can operate WIC at least through the end of October, easing fears among officials that it would run out of money within days. But advocates and others worry what will happen if the shutdown drags on beyond that…”
  • More than 5K Ariz. families denied welfare checks, By Ronald J, Hansen, October 3, 2013, Arizona Republic: “More than 5,000 low-income Arizona families failed to get their welfare checks Thursday in one of the more tangible early effects of the federal government shutdown. The group included people who had been approved for cash assistance, which averages $207 per person, but were not paid because money for the federally funded, state-run program had run out. About 11,000 other families already had received their aid this month, but their benefits could be affected if the political stalemate in Washington stretches into November…”
  • If government shutdown persists, N.H. social services could start to run short, By Ben Leubsdorf, October 3, 2013, Concord Monitor: “Despite the government shutdown, the federally funded safety net for low-income New Hampshire residents appears intact for now. But if the shutdown continues into late October or beyond, state officials and local agencies are worried they’ll begin to run out of money for programs that help supply poor people with food, fuel and child care…”
  • No government reports in shutdown; economists left in limbo, By Ann Belser, October 4, 2013, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “On the first Friday of every month, a host of people are ready at 8:30 a.m. to click into the Bureau of Labor Statistics website. It is at that moment that the bureau releases some of the most economically sensitive data it has: the monthly report on national employment, which includes the unemployment rate, the number of jobs created and the averages of wages and numbers of hours worked. The information regularly moves the financial markets…”
  • U.S. government shutdown claims latest victim: September unemployment report, By Ed Beeson, October 3, 2013, Star-Ledger: “Those who keep watch on how many jobs the U.S. adds each month will have to wait longer for September data. The U.S. Labor Department announced today that its monthly report on the country’s employment situation won’t be released Friday as scheduled, thanks to the federal shutdown. A new release date hasn’t been scheduled, the agency added…”

TANF Application Process – Pennsylvania

As many as 8 of every 10 welfare applicants in 2013 denied by Pa., By Alfred Lubrano, September 16, 2013, Philadelphia Inquirer: “The state of Pennsylvania has denied as many as eight of every 10 applications for cash welfare in 2013, a major increase over previous years, an Inquirer review of Department of Public Welfare figures shows. It’s a pattern being repeated in 17 other states. The increased rate of denials coincides with a change in state law. Before Pennsylvanians apply for welfare, they now must seek at least three jobs and document their efforts…”

Public Assistance Programs – Oregon

State officials struggle to reduce need for welfare, food stamps, By Yuxing Zheng, September 8, 2013, The Oregonian: “Jennifer Noonan sits outside behind her apartment on a recent weekday afternoon watching her two young children and their neighborhood friends push each other around in circles in a toy car. Noonan, 23, is a single mother who hasn’t worked since she quit her job two years ago as a play attendant at Fred Meyer. She and her children, Taima Willeto, 5, and Wenona Willeto, 3, live on $523 a month in food stamps, $506 a month in cash assistance for needy families, and they’re also on the Oregon Health Plan. They live in a two-bedroom apartment in east Portland that’s paid for largely through a federal Section 8 housing voucher, with Noonan paying $33 a month…”

Jobs Opportunity and Basic Skills program – Oregon

More than half of public assistance recipients in job-training program found employment, report says, By Yuxing Zheng, August 8, 2013, The Oregonian: “Fifty-nine percent of public assistance recipients participating in a job-training program were able to find work, a recent report found. Of 574 participants who finished the program by June 2012, 339 found jobs, the report said. Reliance on public assistance, however, continued for many past participants in the program. The success of such job-training programs is key as state officials struggle to help needy individuals find jobs and get off — and stay off — welfare…”

Drug Testing and Assistance Programs – North Carolina

Revised proposal still may deter welfare recipients, By Annalise Frank, July 8, 2013, Charlotte Observer: “An effort to require all welfare recipients to pass a drug test to qualify for benefits that passed the Senate earlier this session has been given a facelift, but advocates for the poor say it’s still an ugly bill. House Bill 392 requires county Social Services employees to do background checks on all applicants for Work First benefits – the state’s welfare program – and food stamps to ensure they’re not parole or probation violators, or have outstanding felony warrants. It also requires drug testing of any Work First recipient suspected of being a drug user. That provision is a step back from a bill the Senate passed in April that required drug testing for all Work First applicants. Worries over the legality of the Senate bill led lawmakers in the House to insert a new version of the testing requirement into the background checks bill…”

TANF Programs – Kansas, Alabama

  • Rules tighten on TANF recipients, By Scott Rothschild, May 1, 2013, Lawrence Journal-World: “Low-income mothers in Kansas will have to participate in a work program sooner after giving birth to receive cash assistance, according to new rules by the Kansas Department for Children and Families. The changes will ‘bring expectations more in line with what the expectations are in the private sector, since that is what an employee can expect to receive from an employer,’ said Angela de Rocha, a spokeswoman for DCF. The changes deal with a program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families…”
  • Committee approves welfare bills to drug test some recipients, prohibit purchases of alcohol, tattoos and tobacco, By Kim Chandler, May 2, 2013, Birmingham News: “The House State Government Committee today approved a bill to drug test welfare recipients with a history of drug offenses. The committee also approved another bill to prohibit people from using welfare benefits to buy booze, cigarettes, lottery tickets or advice on the psychic hotline. Both bills now move to the floor of the House of Representatives. The bill by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, would prohibit recipients from using benefits to purchase alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, lottery tickets and from using those benefits in bars, casinos, tattoo facilities, psychic parlors or strip clubs…”

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families – Tennessee

Critics fear TN bill tying welfare to grades puts kids in harm’s way, By Heidi Hall, April 10, 2013, The Tennessean: “Children in Tennessee could become the first in the nation to determine whether their families receive full welfare benefits — they fail a grade, and the state yanks 30 percent of their cash payouts under a bill the state Senate will take up Thursday. The bill’s sponsor says it’s actually aimed at parents, who can regain benefits after their children fail. They would do that by attending parenting classes or teacher conferences or by enrolling their kids in tutoring or summer school. But in the end, the folks who make pass-or-fail decisions are students and the teachers who grade them. There are no data on how the plan might work because no other state has tried it. But some educators and parents already fear what will happen to children in unstable homes who cost their parents money…”

Drug Testing and Assistance Programs – Texas

Bill to drug-test welfare applicants approved, By Chuck Lindell, March 26, 2013, Austin American-Statesman: “The Senate Health and Human Services Committee unanimously approved a bill to implement drug testing for welfare applicants after changes were made to ensure that benefits for children would continue despite a positive drug test for a parent. Benefits would be cut off only for the adult who tests positive for drugs, said the bill’s author, Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound. A second positive test would cancel the adult’s benefits for one year, though Temporary Assistance for Needy Families could be reinstated after six months with proof of completion or enrollment in a drug-rehabilitation program. A third drug test would produce a lifetime ban from welfare benefits, Nelson said…”

Aid to Dependent Children Program – Nebraska

  • Lawmakers consider increase in state financial aid to families, By Martha Stoddard, March 6, 2013, Omaha World-Herald: “It’s been 25 years since Nebraska last bumped up monthly payments for parents and children receiving state assistance. On Tuesday, State Sen. Kathy Campbell of Lincoln told colleagues on the Health and Human Services Committee that the time has come for another increase. She cast the issue as a part of solving the state’s child welfare problems…”
  • Legislative committee hears proposals that would benefit low-income families, By JoAnne Young, March 5, 2013, Lincoln Journal Star: “Nyatiem Tuty, 29, a single mother of one young boy, nervously faced the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday. She told senators she lives with her mom in a Sarpy County apartment and receives government assistance, including food stamps, Medicaid and bus vouchers…”

Public Assistance and Drug Testing

  • Kansas bill requiring drug testing for unemployment, welfare advances, By Brent D. Wistrom, February 25, 2013, Kansas City Star: “State officials would require drug tests of any Kansan they have reason to believe may be using controlled substances and also getting unemployment or welfare benefits under a bill a Senate panel advanced Monday. Under the proposal that is now poised for a vote in the Senate, welfare and unemployment recipients who fail a urine drug test would lose state cash assistance until they complete a substance abuse treatment program and job skills training. They would then be subject to periodic tests…”
  • Indiana House backs drug tests of welfare recipients, By Mary Beth Schneider, February 26, 2013, Indianapolis Star: “Indiana welfare recipients would face drug testing, and the possible loss of benefits if they fail to stick to treatment, under a bill that passed the Indiana House Monday. House Bill 1483, which passed 78-17 and is now headed to the Senate, is part of a growing nationwide movement among states trying to ensure that those who receive tax dollars because they are poor don’t spend them on illegal drugs…”
  • Temporary ban on Fla. welfare drug testing upheld, By James L. Rosica (AP), February 26, 2013, Houston Chronicle: “A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld a temporary ban on a law requiring drug testing of Florida’s welfare recipients, prompting Gov. Rick Scott to say he’ll now appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled that a lower court was right to temporarily halt enforcement of the state’s drug-testing program. The opinion said the state of Florida hadn’t shown a ‘substantial special need’ for a mandatory testing program with no suspicion of an individual’s drug use…”

Anti-Poverty Programs – Kansas

  • Poverty in Kansas: Some fear rules cast poor families adrift, By Eric Adler, January 5, 2013, Kansas City Star: “A crescent moon hangs in a clear sky above Deer Creek Village. It is a flat and treeless expanse of 92 townhouses where poor families with bedsheets as curtains live side by side in low-rent duplexes subsidized by the federal government. Some have a saying here: One way in, one way out. It is meant to describe the single road, Colonial Drive, shaped like a Q, that encircles the homes. Residents figure it was designed to make it easy for police to come in and hard for drug dealers to escape. Families here also know it refers to their lives and futures. One way in: Poverty. One way out: Jobs and education. These days, the notion occupying many who advocate for Kansas’ poor is that less than three miles away, near the Capitol dome, government officials led by Gov. Sam Brownback are making ‘getting out,’ rising out of poverty, all the more difficult…”
  • Kansas’ privatization, limit of welfare orgs worries advocates, Associated Press, January 6, 2013, Topeka Capital-Journal: “Advocates for the poorest Kansas residents say Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration is making it tougher for the state’s needy to rise out of poverty by cutting much-needed assistance. Brownback administrators, however, insist that stricter policies on who receives state assistance are forcing people to find jobs instead of relying on handouts. Ever since Brownback campaigned for governor in 2010, the conservative Republican has declared that lifting children out of poverty is a priority. But advocates for the poor argue that under Brownback’s administration needy residents are being cast adrift and that the coming years will be even worse, The Kansas City Star reported…”

Welfare Time Limits – Michigan

5-year limit on welfare challenged in Michigan Supreme Court, By David Eggert, November 18, 2012, mlive.com: “The welfare benefits of at least 11,000 recipients are at stake in the Michigan Supreme Court, which is weighing whether the state overstepped its authority in enforcing a five-year lifetime limit on receiving cash assistance. After a new law took effect in October 2011, state Department of Human Services Director Maura Corrigan changed policy to end welfare benefits for people who were beyond 60 months of eligibility under federal law. The state has a 48-month limit, but months that recipients get a hardship exemption – working single parents, for instance, or caregivers for disabled family members – do not count…”

TANF Program – Michigan

Welfare changes have saved state money; fate of ex-recipients unclear, By Ron French, October 23, 2012, MLive.com: “The number of Michigan families getting welfare checks from the state plummeted to the lowest level in more than 40 years just nine months after welfare reform was implemented. Twelve months in, the state is spending nearly $18 million a month less on cash assistance, the cumulative result of reform and an improving economy. Those figures represent the clearest picture yet of the startling scope of the state’s reform efforts. Less clear is the impact on the almost 15,000 families who lost benefits or are receiving cash assistance temporarily pending the outcome of a legal battle…”

Welfare-to-Work Program – Ohio

Ohio pushes welfare recipients to find work and exit the system, By Mark Guarino, October 15, 2012, Christian Science Monitor: “Karen Owens dreams of one day getting a job – perhaps becoming certified as a substance abuse counselor. But when a state welfare official told her she had to get a job immediately or risk losing her public assistance, her doctor repeatedly warned county officials she was not ready. A litany of diagnosed mental illnesses, including post traumatic disorder from the 17 years she was homeless on the streets of Cleveland, as well as a life of drug and alcohol addiction that landed her in prison several times, meant she had trouble coping with the filing job the county found her last spring. ‘I’d hold my ears, it would be so loud in there, it was just crazy. I had panic attacks, I cried. At the same time, I needed a way for my daughter to eat,’ she says. The experiment failed. Ms. Owens is back out of work and drawing money from Social Security. But it is a window into how many states have trimmed their welfare rolls to meet a goal laid out in a mid-2000s federal law. Now, Ohio is one of three states still scrambling to meet that standard. It has to get at least half of all adults receiving assistance into a work activity or face $135 million in penalties later this fall…”

Welfare-to-Work Program – South Carolina

DSS: SC welfare-to-work program exceeded goal, By Seanna Adcox (AP), October 2, 2012, The State: “The director of South Carolina’s social services agency said Tuesday more of its clients are getting jobs and coming off welfare rolls. But an advocate for the poor says that doesn’t mean they’re making a livable wage. Department of Social Services Director Lillian Koller said nearly 12,300 people stopped receiving welfare payments between September 2011 and June through its welfare-to-work program. That’s more than double the number during those months a year earlier and exceeds Koller’s goal by 22 percent. Koller said the more important figure is the 21,000 children whose parents are now working and can break the cycle of poverty…”

State TANF Program – Maine

New welfare time limit cuts thousands from rolls, heightens focus on work programs, By Robert Long, September 28, 2012, Bangor Daily News: “The number of Maine households receiving welfare benefits through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program decreased by more than 3,000 between January and July of this year. State welfare officials and advocates agree that the approximately 26 percent drop in Maine’s TANF caseload since January results directly from the implementation this year of a 60-month limit on how long each household can receive benefits. They also agree that what happens to families whose benefits expire must be monitored closely — and that the system will have to change to better meet their needs…”