Welfare Reform

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Welfare Reform

Under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) replaced AFDC, ending some Federal responsibility to welfare assistance. States operate their own programs; determine eligibility services to be provided to needy families, within Federal guidelines. The Federal government cannot regulate the conduct of states except to a few requirements, and states have a wide latitude in administering the program to "provide assistance to needy families so that children can be cared for in their own homes; to reduce dependency by promoting job preparation, work and marriage; to prevent out-of-wedlock pregnancies; and to encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families" (Danziger, 2000). Welfare reform is such a complex issue with no easy solutions. Recent efforts to reform welfare temporarily solve some of the old problems and create new ones.

For instance, a recent study has shown that with TANF, local welfare offices vary in their definitions of the goals of welfare reform. Some stress both welfare avoidance and work incentives, some solely stress work incentives, and some stress the correctness of eligibility decisions and effective anti-fraud programs (Nathan & Gais, 1999). This creates chaos in a system that needs consistency.

States may use TANF funds for a variety of supports for needy working families and can determine the income level at which a family is considered needy. Many people find that they do not meet the requirements of “needy” and are thus forced to make a living in jobs that keep them living in poverty. From one-half to two-thirds of those no longer receiving assistance are working in jobs where ea...

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...eeping a job, and earning higher wages. These people are living in the highest levels of poverty; they need the most help (Nathan & Gais, 1999). But, to keep the numbers up, and show success in the program, these may be the last to get services.

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act restricts states from using federal TANF block grant funds to assist most families for more than five years. However, states can implement their own time limits. In Utah, there is a 36-month lifetime limit. This introduces some problems. A study in Riverside, CA, (before time-limits) found that nearly half of the AFDC recipients would have reached a two-year time limit within four years (Greenberg, 1996). This means, especially in Utah, that time limits will need to make huge behavioral changes to prevent people from reaching their limit so quickly.