Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Welfare to Work? How People Are Faring 20 Years After Welfare Reform

By: Kate Giammarise

Published: August 22, 2016

Twenty years ago today, President Bill Clinton signed welfare reform into law.

The sweeping overhaul was meant to move people from welfare to work and to end what critics saw as a cycle of dependence that kept families in poverty.

The law has resulted in far fewer people receiving welfare, but critics say that’s because the program is not succeeding at helping those who need assistance.

“Six decades of federal policies to help the nation’s poor ended yesterday in the White House Rose Garden,” read the story in the next day’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “as President Clinton signed a bill that turns over many welfare programs to the states and imposes strict requirements on welfare recipients.”

“Today we are ending welfare as we know it, but I hope this day will be remembered not for what it ended, but for what it began,” the president said at the Aug. 22, 1996, bill signing.

The bill, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, did truly “end welfare as we know it,” as Mr. Clinton famously promised, by radically overhauling the program in several key ways.

The old program — Aid to Families with Dependent Children — was considered a federal entitlement, meaning families poor enough to qualify were guaranteed federal assistance. The new program — Temporary Assistance to Needy Families — is a block grant, meaning each state gets a set amount of money and no more, so not every person who qualifies for assistance is guaranteed to receive it.

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