A Welfare Program Example
In the United States, federal cash assistance for dependent children began in 1935 with the enactment of the Social Security Act. At that time, most poor single mothers were widows, and the cash assistance appropriation was designed to help mothers stay home with their children. Through the years, that initial program, which was called Mother's Pension, changed in both the titles of the cash assistance programs and the requirements placed on the mothers who participate in these programs.
During the 1960s, the United States Congress passed laws that provided incentives to poor mothers to find jobs or to be in job skills training programs. Efforts were also made by the federal government to require fathers of poor children receiving governmental aid to pay child support. By the 1980s, the generalized picture of most poor single mothers revealed that they had never been married or were separated or divorced.
Two decades of moderate to conservative governmental leadership resulted in the U.S. Congress making major changes in the nation's welfare system in 1996. It passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA). Within this act, the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program also replaced the former federal program of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). Under AFDC, the federal government required the states to provide aid to families whose income was below the poverty line. Under TANF, the federal government distributed cash payments directly to the states. The respective states determined the recipients of the cash assistance. The major shift in TANF from AFDC was that recipients must be working within two years, with five years being the maximum time that poor families could remain on government aid.
The results of this ideological paradigm shift were mixed. Some statistics reveal decreases in the welfare caseload. Other statistics revealed that more poor people, especially women, were employed although many of the jobs paid only minimum wage. Anecdotal evidence abounded about to the number of poor women with children who had to choose between paying their utilities and purchasing food. Some estimates suggested that by the early twenty-first century, TANF would result in 2.6 million more people living below the federal poverty line (OneWorld web site).
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