Working Families and Public Assistance

  • Working, but needing public assistance anyway, By Patricia Cohen, April 12, 2015, New York Times: “A home health care worker in Durham, N.C.; a McDonald’s cashier in Chicago; a bank teller in New York; an adjunct professor in Maywood, Ill. They are all evidence of an improving economy, because they are working and not among the steadily declining ranks of the unemployed.  Yet these same people also are on public assistance — relying on food stamps, Medicaid or other stretches of the safety net to help cover basic expenses when their paychecks come up short.  And they are not alone. Nearly three-quarters of the people helped by programs geared to the poor are members of a family headed by a worker, according to a new study by the Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education at the University of California. As a result, taxpayers are providing not only support to the poor but also, in effect, a huge subsidy for employers of low-wage workers, from giants like McDonald’s and Walmart to mom-and-pop businesses…”
  • Get a job? Most welfare recipients already have one, By Eric Morath, April 13, 2015, Wall Street Journal: “It’s poor-paying jobs, not unemployment, that strains the welfare system.  That’s one key finding from a study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, that showed the majority of households receiving government assistance are headed by a working adult.  The study found that 56% of federal and state dollars spent between 2009 and 2011 on welfare programs — including Medicaid, food stamps and the Earned Income Tax Credit— flowed to working families and individuals with jobs. In some industries, about half the workforce relies on welfare…”

States and Welfare Reform

  • States take aim at social welfare programs, By Tierney Sneed, April 9, 2015, US News: “State lawmakers attracted national attention this week for seeking to ban the use of welfare funds on lingerie, fortune tellers or even cookies, proposals that reflect a renewed focus on scrutinizing the social safety net as the country rebounds from the Great Recession.  A Missouri bill introduced by Republican state Rep. Rick Brattin would outlaw the use of welfare funds to purchase chips, energy drinks, soft drinks, seafood and steak. Kansas legislation, which has passed both chambers and is on its way to Gov. Sam Brownback’s desk, is a more comprehensive overhaul of how the state administers its benefits.  Critics say such measures stigmatize the poor and that Republicans, who are often behind the efforts, are simply playing politics in limiting assistance programs – especially since the money is provided by the federal government rather than the state. Proponents point out that states still share the administrative costs and have an interest in pursuing programs that are effective in getting people back to work, regardless of how they’re funded​…”
  • Why is Kansas pursuing tougher welfare rules?, By Amanda Paulson, April 7, 2015, Christian Science Monitor: “Starting in July, welfare recipients in Kansas won’t be able to use government aid to go to a tattoo parlor, nail salon, movie theater, or swimming pool, among other spots, assuming Gov. Sam Brownback signs the measure passed by the state legislature.  The maximum they can withdraw from an ATM will also be limited, to $25 a day. They won’t be able to spend their benefits out of state, and the maximum amount of time they can receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) over the course of a lifetime will be reduced from 48 to 36 months.  States have great discretion with regard to the rules they can put in place for TANF block grants, and a number of states have sought to limit in various ways how recipients can use those funds. But the bill in Kansas, as well as measures being debated in Missouri that would severely curb eligibility and impose restrictions on how recipients can use their aid, appear to take the constraints to a new level. They also don’t seem to be driven primarily by fiscal reasons, but rather by ideological ones, observers say…”

Welfare Reform – Kansas

Bill tightening restrictions on welfare recipients advances in Kansas Senate, By Bryan Lowry, April 2, 2015, Wichita Eagle: “The Kansas Senate is moving forward with a bill that limits people to 36 months of welfare benefits, bans repeat drug offenders from food assistance for life and restricts the amount recipients can withdraw from an ATM using a welfare benefits card.  Senators passed HB 2258 by voice vote Wednesday after a heated debate that lasted most of the day. The bill will be up for a final vote Thursday and is expected to pass easily. The bill makes changes to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, commonly called welfare, and the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, commonly called food stamps. The programs are federally funded but administered by the states…”

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…”

Welfare Reform – Ohio

John Kasich’s new coordinated welfare approach to start with teens, young adults, By Robert Higgs, January 20, 2015, Cleveland Plain Dealer: “Gov. John Kasich will propose new approaches for Ohio’s welfare programs in the budget he unveils Monday, targeting teens and young adults as part of an effort to intervene at an early age to stop poverty. The changes would require individual counties, which administer the assistance programs across the state, to designate a lead entity that will be responsible for coordinating help — assistance programs and job training efforts — and matching them to clients…”

State Welfare Programs – Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Michigan

  • Participation in ‘workfare’ fell sharply in Mass., study finds, By Megan Woolhouse, January 22, 2015, Boston Globe: “Massachusetts has the nation’s lowest participation of welfare recipients working to receive their benefits, undermining one of the key reforms that was intended to move people from public assistance to self-sufficiency, according to a study to be released Thursday by a conservative Beacon Hill think tank. Only 7.3 percent of people receiving welfare benefits in the state held jobs in fiscal 2011, the most recent year for which data were available, according to the Pioneer Institute. That’s roughly one-fourth the national average of about 30 percent…”
  • Walker budget to bar drug users from food stamps, Medicaid, By Jason Stein, January 22, 2015, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “With federal approval in doubt, Gov. Scott Walker is moving ahead with his campaign pledge to ensure that drug users aren’t getting public health care, food stamp or jobless benefits. As Walker explores a 2016 presidential bid, the proposal being included in the governor’s Feb. 3 budget bill will help him sell himself to GOP primary voters as a leader committed to overhauling the core programs of government. For the first time Thursday, Walker committed to drug testing recipients of BadgerCare Plus health coverage and also pledged free treatment and job training for those testing positive for drugs…”
  • Snyder’s welfare plan needs ‘mother of all waivers’, By Chad Livengood, January 22, 2015, Detroit News: “Gov. Rick Snyder said Thursday the federal government may need to grant Michigan ‘the mother of all waivers’ for his administration to redesign some 145 different social services programs. Snyder’s ambitious ‘river of opportunity’ agenda that he unveiled Tuesday in his State of the State address may involve a complex untangling of a federally financed state bureaucracy for the governor to make government programs more ‘people centric’ instead of program-driven…”

Drug Testing and Public Assistance – Maine

With AG’s approval, LePage administration to start drug testing some welfare applicants, By Mario Moretto, January 14, 2015, Bangor Daily News: “After changes were made to protect the state from potential lawsuits, Gov. Paul LePage’s administration is moving forward with a plan to drug test some welfare applicants as a condition of eligibility. The new rule, approved recently by Attorney General Janet Mills, requires applicants convicted of a drug felony in the past 20 years to take a written test designed to determine their risk for further drug use. If the applicant is determined to be at risk, he or she would be required to take a drug test…”

Drug Testing and Public Assistance Programs

Drug-testing welfare recipients: War on drugs or war on the poor?, By Husna Haq, December 11, 2014, Christian Science Monitor: “The Michigan Senate Wednesday approved legislation that would require welfare recipients undergo drug testing, a controversial policy that’s created a contentious debate. While supporters say the Republican-backed legislation targets drug use and encourages responsible public spending, critics say it is unconstitutional, humiliating, and wasteful…”

Drug Testing and Public Assistance Programs

  • Kansas is testing few welfare recipients for drugs, By Brad Cooper, December 1, 2014, Kansas City Star: “Drug-testing welfare applicants often gets the knock that it costs so much and catches so few. In Kansas, drug testing catches so few because it’s testing so few. After its first four months, a new Kansas law for testing welfare applicants for drugs is off to a sluggish start, only testing 20 applicants. Four tested positive. Five others refused the test. The law, passed by the Legislature in 2013, took effect July 1. It was billed as a way of weaning the less affluent off drugs, getting them treatment and job training and helping them out of poverty…”
  • Court rejects Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s drug testing of welfare applicants, By Mary Ellen Klas, December 3, 2014, Miami Herald: “A federal appeals court on Wednesday dealt another blow to Gov. Rick Scott’s crusade to conduct drug tests on welfare applicants when it upheld a lower court ruling that the practice was unconstitutional. The unanimous ruling from a bipartisan panel of judges concluded that the state failed to show any evidence as to why it was necessary to force applicants seeking Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to surrender their constitutional rights as a condition of receiving the aid…”
  • Welfare drug testing pilot program approved by Michigan House, By Jonathan Oosting, December 3, 2014, MLive: “The Michigan House on Wednesday approved a long-discussed pilot program that would mandate suspicion-based drug testing for welfare recipients, who could lose cash benefits for failing more than one test. The two-bill package, approved by the Senate in an earlier form but now awaiting final concurrence, would require the Michigan Department of Human Services to launch a one-year pilot program in at least three counties beginning by October 2015…”

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…”

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 Work Participation – Oregon

Welfare in Oregon: Audit paints detailed portrait, By Yuxing Zheng, April 25, 2014, The Oregonian: “An audit released this month on Oregon’s dismal track record shifting people off of welfare and into jobs offers a detailed look at the effects of the recession. The audit from the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office includes maps and charts that illustrate the downturn’s toll, including a sharp rise in welfare recipients and a reduction in state services. The graphics also show how state cuts contributed to welfare recipients’ low rate of working or looking for work. Oregon welfare recipients spent just 14.1 hours a month on work-related activities in 2010 – the lowest in the nation…”

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…”

TANF Work Participation – Oregon, Maine

  • Oregon welfare audit says state should increase job training, accountability to move recipients into work, By Yuxing Zheng, April 16, 2014, The Oregonian: “An audit of the welfare program in Oregon says that state officials need to boost job training, hold recipients accountable, provide more subsidized child care and make other changes in order to move more recipients into jobs. The audit, released Wednesday from the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office, found the state had made ‘little to no progress’ in moving recipients off of welfare. Program managers failed to hold recipients accountable for missed jobs appointments and sometimes went years without significant contact with recipients…”
  • Maine fined $7 million over welfare work participation rates, By Steve Mistler, April 17, 2104, Portland Press Herald: “Gov. Paul LePage said the federal government will penalize the state $7 million because its welfare cash assistance program doesn’t meet federal work participation standards. The governor’s announcement comes as lawmakers are set to finish their work for the legislative session and after the Democratic-controlled Legislature rejected one of his proposals to align work participation requirements within the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program with the federal law. The administration has previously said that the state was on the hook for $13 million in fines from the federal government because its work participation rate among TANF recipients was far below federal standards…”

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…”