State TANF Spending

How are states using welfare funding? Often, not to help people work, By J.B. Wogan, October 26, 2016, Governing: “When Congress reformed the nation’s welfare program 20 years ago, it set a new condition for eligibility: Recipients must have a job or be searching for one. But the 1996 reforms also gave states freedom to decide how to spend their federal welfare funding. As a result, many aren’t spending it on programs that directly help people find employment.  Last year, on average, states used less than 10 percent of welfare funding for work-related services, such as subsidized employment, job training, job search assistance and transportation vouchers…”

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…”

TANF Time Limits and Domestic Abuse Survivors

Abused and impoverished: Domestic abuse survivors vexed by new welfare limitations, By Natalia Alamdari, November 3, 2015, Columbia Missourian: “Kenya was 15 when she started dating him. She gave birth to their son, Kayden, by the time she was 16. Although still a child herself, Kenya knew the hitting and the name-calling were wrong. Having your hair pulled and being yelled at in public wasn’t normal, right? But still, ‘all I wanted was for him to care about me,’ she said. So Kenya stayed with her abusive boyfriend. She was too young to sign a lease for her own apartment and had nowhere else to go…”

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…”

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…”

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 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 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

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…”

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…”

Welfare-to-Work Program – South Carolina

More welfare recipients transitioning to employment, By Gina Smith, August 9, 2012, The State: “An increasing number of South Carolinians are getting off welfare and into jobs, according to the S.C. Department of Social Services, which oversees the state’s welfare-to-work program. More than 10,600 South Carolinians got off welfare and got jobs in the 10-month period that ended June 30, according to the agency. That is more than double the 5,060 individuals who transitioned from assistance to work in 2010. Doubling the number was a top goal of new Social Services director Lillian Koller, who told the agency’s staff to change the way it was serving welfare clients…”

Welfare Reform

  • Welfare spending cut in half since reform, By Tami Luhby, August 9, 2012, CNNMoney: “Today’s welfare program is nothing like what it used to be. In the 16 years since President Clinton and Congress overhauled the nation’s welfare system, the number of people receiving cash assistance has fallen by two-thirds. And public spending on the program has dropped by more than half. Conservative lawmakers and policy analysts have celebrated the reform, saying it has helped put people on the road to self-sufficiency rather than government dependence. But advocates for low-income people contend that Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which is what welfare turned into in 1996, does not adequately support the poor, particularly in tough economic times. The cash assistance portion of TANF has fallen to $9.6 billion in 2011, down from $20.4 billion in what were mostly cash benefits in 1996, according to an analysis by CLASP, a low-income advocacy group. The average number of people receiving payments per month is 4.6 million, down from 12.6 million…”
  • Obama’s welfare waiver: Gutting rules or tweaking?, By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar (AP), August 9, 2012, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Welfare is causing a ruckus in the presidential campaign. But the program is a shadow of its old self from the 1970s, when Ronald Reagan used the image of ‘welfare queens’ to assail government poverty programs promoted by liberals. Nowadays government cash assistance to the poor is mainly conditioned on work. And the Obama administration waivers excoriated by Mitt Romney as gutting welfare reform are unlikely to reverse that basic policy, as even some architects of work requirements acknowledge…”
  • Romney presses Obama on work in welfare law, By Trip Gabriel, August 7, 2012, New York Times: “Mitt Romney accused President Obama on Tuesday of gutting one of the signature bipartisan accomplishments of the recent political era: the overhaul of welfare policy. Mr. Romney, taking up criticism that has gripped conservatives for the last few weeks, attacked a directive by the Obama administration that Republicans say does an end run around the welfare law, signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996, that is widely credited with reducing government dependency…”