Welfare Reform – Washington, DC

District does an about-face on welfare reform with decision to keep helping long-term recipients, By Paul Duggan, July 24, 2017, Washington Post: “In 2011, long-term welfare recipients in the District had reason to be gravely worried, because the D.C. Council and then-Mayor Vincent C. Gray seemed intent on ending benefits entirely for families that had been on the rolls for longer than 60 months. The cutoff date, dubbed ‘the cliff,’ was set for October of this year, after which about 6,000 impoverished adults with roughly 12,000 children would be left to fend for themselves financially…”

Welfare Reform – Maine

Gov. LePage tells legislators: Turn my welfare actions into permanent law, By Kevin Miller, March 28, 2017, Portland Press Herald: “Gov. Paul LePage unveiled a package of proposed welfare changes Tuesday that seek to put into law the executive actions his administration has made to tighten access to assistance programs while beefing up work requirements. Several of the proposals outlined by LePage were introduced as bills in the past but have failed in the Legislature in the face of opposition from Democrats and advocates for low-income Mainers…”

Welfare Reform – Wisconsin

Scott Walker: Parents should work 80 hours per month to get food stamps, By Molly Beck, January 24, 2017, Wisconsin State Journal: “Gov. Scott Walker wants parents who receive food stamps to work at least 80 hours per month to continue to receive full benefits.  Walker made the announcement Monday in appearances around the state promoting changes dubbed ‘Wisconsin Works for Everyone’ that he plans to make to the state’s welfare programs.  One component would require parents with school-age children living at home to work to continue to receive full benefits through the state’s food stamp program known as FoodShare…”

Welfare Reform and Intergenerational Poverty

The major flaw in President Clinton’s welfare reform that almost no one noticed, By Max Ehrenfreund, August 30, 2016, Washington Post: “Shavonna Rentie’s father raised her on what he earned working at McDonald’s, along with welfare and food stamps. When she was 15, President Clinton signed a law that changed all of that, replacing welfare with a complex new system that fostered vocational training.  The new law encouraged Rentie’s father to go to school and become a mechanic. Seeing him get the job he wanted ‘pushed me to go for what I really want to be,’ Rentie said.  It was exactly as the writers of the law had planned: Welfare reform would help parents receiving welfare set a better example for their children. The children, in turn, would grow up with broader ambitions, free from the generational cycle of poverty and dependence on government — at least, that’s what policymakers intended…”

Welfare Reform

  • 20 years since welfare’s overhaul, results are mixed, By Pam Fessler, August 22, 2016, National Public Radio: “Twenty years ago, welfare as Americans knew it ended. President Bill Clinton signed a welfare overhaul bill that limited benefits and encouraged poor people to find jobs.  ‘We’re going to make it all new again, and see if we can’t create a system of incentives which reinforce work and family and independence,’ Clinton said at a White House bill signing ceremony.  The goals were admirable: help poor families get into the workforce so they’d no longer need government aid. They’d get job training and support, such as help with child care.  But the results have been mixed…”
  • How welfare reform changed American poverty, in 9 charts, By Max Ehrenfreund, August 22, 2016, Washington Post: “Twenty years ago, President Clinton kept a promise. ‘I have a plan to end welfare as we know it,’ he said in a television spot during his campaign for office. He did, on Aug. 22, 1996.  The law that the president signed that day, together with other policies enacted by Congress and the states, profoundly changed the lives of poor Americans. It was intensely controversial at the time — a controversy that is heating up again today. New data on the hardships of poverty in the aftermath of the recent recession have exposed what critics say are shortcomings of welfare reform…”

TANF programs – Missouri, California

  • Tougher rules shrink Missouri welfare rolls, advocates for the poor say, By Kurt Erickson, June 17, 2016, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “New figures show the number of poor people receiving temporary cash benefits in Missouri has plummeted in the past five years.  And, the number is expected to nosedive further in the coming months under a proposed new law that calls for the state to scrub the welfare rolls to eliminate people who aren’t eligible for the aid…”
  • California’s new budget repeals welfare rule denying extra aid for newborns, By Jessica Calefati, June 16, 2016, San Jose Mercury News: “Capping a month of remarkably productive talks between Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic leaders, lawmakers on Wednesday adopted a new state budget that repeals a harsh welfare rule advocates for needy families had fought against for years.  Assembly members barely debated the $122.5 billion general fund budget, passing it 52-27. The Senate approved the spending plan 27-11 over the objections of most Republicans, who argued that the Legislature was a bit too generous this year and should have saved more of the tax revenue it collected…”

Welfare Reform and the Disconnected

The Disconnected, By Krissy Clark, June 3, 2016, Slate and Marketplace: “I met Laura Grennan on a cold morning this past winter in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In a gray sweatshirt, her dark hair pulled back in a ponytail, Grennan was pushing her daughters in a double stroller. Angel is her 2-year-old, and her 3-year old is named Isis—like the Egyptian goddess, Grennan is quick to explain. ‘I love Egyptian mythology,’ she says, ‘so I just picked the name out of a hat, and I thought it was beautiful—until, of course, all the news of the terrorist group came out.’ She sighs. ‘But we work around it.’  ‘Working around it’ is something Grennan, 30, has had to become very good at in her life. Grennan grew up in foster care. Moved around a lot. Dropped out of high school. By her mid-20s, she had found some degree of stability—gotten her GED, held a series of jobs she liked…”

Welfare Reform

20 years later, welfare overhaul resonates for families and candidates, By Clyde Haberman, May 1, 2016, New York Times: “In a sense, this is a ‘Back to the Future’ presidential campaign, with candidates revisiting a specific time in the past to explain — and often lament — where the country is today. That period is often the 1990s, during Bill Clinton’s White House watch. It was when stricter anti-crime measures and looser financial regulations came into being, policies now attacked almost daily by contenders offering voters their visions and revisions.  One ‘Back to the Future’ issue from the ’90s has received relatively scant attention, but the next president may have a hard time avoiding it, for it affects millions of Americans. It involves the welfare system, overhauled in 1996 by a Republican Congress and a Democratic president, Mr. Clinton, who had pledged to ‘end welfare as we know it.’ He made good on that promise. Welfare as we knew it went away. But poverty as we know it never ended, a stark reality shaping the latest video documentary from Retro Report, which examines major news events of the past and their reverberations…”

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…”

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…”

Welfare Reform – Kansas

$25 ATM limit for Kansas welfare recipients may violate federal law, By Lindsay Wise and Dion Lefler, May 16, 2015, Wichita Eagle: “A first-of-its-kind provision that prevents welfare recipients in Kansas from withdrawing more than $25 a day from an ATM might violate federal law – and could jeopardize the state’s federal funding if not amended. The Social Security Act requires states to ensure that recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, ‘have adequate access to their cash assistance’ and can withdraw money ‘with minimal fees or charges.’  At stake is about $102 million in TANF block grant money that Kansas receives every year from the federal government.  The ATM limit was added as an amendment to a welfare overhaul bill signed in April by Gov. Sam Brownback…”

Welfare Reform – Missouri

After his welfare limits veto is overridden, Nixon vetoes unemployment changes, By Jason Hancock, May 5, 2015, Kansas City Star: “Lawmakers voted Tuesday to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a bill that would cut thousands of low-income Missourians off of a federal welfare program.  Meantime, Nixon vetoed a separate bill that would cut the amount of time a laid-off worker could collect jobless benefits to 13 weeks from 20 weeks. Republican leaders spoke confidently that they could override that veto, too…”

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…”

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…”

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…”

Welfare Reform

Taxing hard-up Americans at 95%, September 7, 2013, The Economist: “After her son was born in 2008, Melissa Devilma—homeless, jobless and alone—needed help. The welfare system stepped in: she received $478 in cash and $367 in food stamps each month, along with housing assistance that lowered the rent on her two-bedroom apartment in Boston to $131. Including health care, taxpayers subsidised her to the tune of $33,000 annually. Ms Devilma used the money to go to college and earn a bachelor’s degree. She wants to get off the dole. But she says that many of the other welfare recipients she knows are reluctant to seek work or an education. Life in the system is hardly gold-plated, but it is comfortable enough. Even Ms Devilma admits that, if it were not for her son and the recent expiry of her cash aid, she would rather live on welfare than take an entry-level job at McDonald’s, which she considers unsuited to her level of education. As it is, she would take any job “just so I have that little money to provide for him”…”

 

Welfare Reform – Massachusetts

Massachusetts Senate leaders take wraps off bill to overhaul welfare, By Dan Ring, June 17, 2013, The Republican: “Senate President Therese Murray and other Senate leaders Monday unveiled a bill to overhaul welfare in Massachusetts, including requiring photo identifications on electronic benefit transfer cards and creation of a program to connect able-bodied applicants with jobs before they receive benefits. Murray said the welfare system is stagnant and the Senate wants to shake it up, while helping recipients…”

Public Benefit Reforms in the UK

  • Benefits changes: Warnings as crisis loans scrapped, By Alex Campbell, March 29, 2013, BBC News: “A national scheme to aid vulnerable people in financial trouble is ending just as demand for such help is expected to surge, campaigners warn. Community care grants and crisis loans paid through job centres, as part of the social fund, will end on Monday. Instead, councils in England and the Scottish and Welsh governments are being given funding to provide alternatives. Critics warn demand will rise as the government’s welfare changes kick in. And, they fear, the changes means help for tens of thousands of people will be a “postcode lottery”, meaning the level of aid they get will be dependent on where they live…”
  • Food vouchers to provide emergency help but prevent spending on alcohol, By Patrick Butler, March 26, 2013, The Guardian: “‘Food stamps’ arrive in Britain next month, when tens of thousands of vulnerable people will be issued with food vouchers in lieu of money to tide them over short-term financial crises. Rather than, as now, offering a cash loan, most councils will from April offer new applicants who qualify for emergency assistance a one-off voucher redeemable for goods such as food and nappies. Many of the 150 local authorities in England running welfare schemes have confirmed that they will issue the vouchers in the form of payment cards, which will be blocked or monitored to prevent the holder using them for alcohol, cigarettes or gambling. Several plan to issue charity food parcels to people applying for crisis help, and are preparing to give cash grants to food banks to enable them to take on full-time staff and increase opening hours. Each authority has drawn up eligibility rules, setting out who will qualify for crisis help and the conditions under which it will be given. One plans to make emergency help conditional on good behaviour…”

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…”