Thinking like a social worker

…any questions? Yes. I have plenty.

Listen: “Poverty in America”

on May 2, 2012

All Things Considered recently released an interesting segment discussing poverty and its connection with welfare reform.  Listen here.

A little background: 

In the early 1990’s, Congress saw welfare as a program that taught its recipients become dependent on the federal government (still evident by Ron Haskin comments in the link above).  So when it came time for a solution, it became caseload reduction, which had nothing to do with actually helping people get out of poverty.

In 1996, Bill Clinton signed Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act replacing the permanent aid with Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF).  TANF was a work first initiative that required work in order to receive benefits, and only allowed individuals to receive benefits for a lifetime total of five years.  The “work” positions were mainly in low-paying career fields, which would not necessarily raise a family out of poverty.

The new policy did achieve its goal and welfare rolls dropped dramatically.  Of those that left the rolls, some found employment and some did not.  Sixteen years after welfare reform, many highly-skilled individual are struggling to find employment.  Where does this leave low-skill, low-wage families not eligible for TANF?  As nutritional assistance program, is it appropriate for SNAP/food stamps to be serving as the main safety net for these families?


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