Welfare as we know it now: 6 questions answered


Source:  The Conversation/Laura Hussey

President Donald Trump’s proposed budget would slice US $21.7 billion over a decade, or 13.1 percent, from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) – what’s left of basic welfare for families facing economic hardship. To justify this cut and an across-the-board reduction in antipoverty spending, he argued, “We must reform our welfare system so that it does not discourage able-bodied adults from working, which takes away scarce resources from those in real need.”

But, as political scientist Laura Hussey explains, that’s already the case. Today’s welfare system is short-term and reserved mainly for children.

What is TANF?

TANF provides cash assistance and other services to children and their parents or guardians who can work and are extremely poor. States, sometimes through local governments, administer the program and help fund it.

It replaced the welfare program known first as Aid to Dependent Children and later renamed Aid to Families with Dependent Children. In 1996, President Bill Clinton and the Republican-led Congress overhauled the welfare system, creating TANF. This modern welfare system’s main goals boil down to:

Help Families in need care for their own children.

Get families off welfare quickly, especially through paid work.

Encourage marriage and two-parent families while discouraging unmarried and teen pregnancy.

Fulfilling Clinton’s campaign promise to “end welfare as we know it,” the law tied time limits and other, sometimes intrusive, mandates to cash grants. Among other changes, it converted the federal program into a block grant model, letting states use these dollars how they wanted. It converted this antipoverty program into aid contingent on efforts to enter or reenter the workforce through new job requirements. In 2012, the most recent year for which comprehensive data are available, more than 42 percent of TANF families included an employed household member.

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