Thursday, September 8, 2011

Society:  Welfare Rates Almost Unchanged During Recession

Not surprisingly, participation in government support programs like food stamps and unemployment insurance has soared in the United States during the recession. Those services kicked in, as the very concept of a social safety net implies, just when people have needed them the most.

But there is one odd exception to this trend: Caseloads for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families — the program created by the signing of welfare reform 15 years ago this week — have barely crept up nationwide since 2007. In 13 states, caseloads have dropped even as local unemployment as much as doubled.

Now we're learning for the first time how welfare reform looks in a severe recession. And it turns out that a system dramatically reformed to emphasize employment doesn't support the poor well when there are no jobs to be had.
In 1996, more than 80% of families eligible for the program enrolled in it. By 2005, that figure had fallen to 40%. In some states, the caseload decline during the recession has simply been an extension of that trend. The data have varied dramatically by state, as welfare reform's new block grant formula gave individual states much greater control over how they operate the program. In 2009, 80% of poor families in California participated. In Texas, 8% did.

For more, see Welfare Rates Almost Unchanged During Recession by Emily Badger, August 23, 2011 at Miller-McCune.

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