The Learning Curve

New tricks for an old dog.

Blame it all on the 35 one-hundredths of one percent

The mental picture of fat lazy slackers sitting watching TV all day while getting money  from the Federal government for doing nothing is a persistent one. Perhaps the vivid thirty year old  parables of political candidate Ronald Reagan have a psychological life of their own which no assembly of facts can lessen. If that is the case, then I’m wasting my time, but here’s hoping.

The welfare system of the depression era New Deal that Reagan was complaining about  thirty years ago was totally revised in the 1990s during the Clinton administration. Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) was replaced with Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). The basic operating goal of the change was called “Welfare to Work.”

TANF is a Federal block grant to States.  Each State not only administers the program for its own residents, but each State has flexibility to design its own program and eligibility requirements within the broader Federal objectives. The States, not the Federal government, decide on the design of the program, the type and amount of assistance payments, the range of other services to be provided, and the rules for determining who is eligible for benefits. The Federal program has four main goals:

  • To provide assistance to needy families so that children may be cared for in their own homes or in the homes of relatives;
  • To end the dependency of needy parents on government benefits by promoting job preparation, work, and marriage;
  • To prevent and reduce the incidence of out-of-wedlock pregnancies and establish annual numerical goals for preventing and reducing the incidence of these pregnancies; and
  • To encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families.

With few exceptions, recipients must work as soon as they are job-ready or no later than two years after coming on assistance. Families with an adult who has received federally-funded assistance for a total of five years, or less at state option, are not eligible for cash aid under the TANF program.

The TANF program is temporary and time limited. After receiving benefits for no more than two years, there is a work requirement for continuing to receive benefits up to the five year lifetime limit. Single parents must participate in work activities for an average of 30 hours per week, or an average of 20 hours per week if they have a child under age six, for example.

The assistance provided by TANF is available only when there are children involved. Childless adults don’t qualify.  But, since there are two parent families, one parent families, zero parent families, and each family can have multiple children, the number of those receiving benefits through TANF can be confusing.  Consequently, I’ve chosen to look at the number of adults involved, as reported by the Office of Family Assistance,  Administration for Children and Families, U. S. Department of Health and Human Services.

There has been a steady decline in the number of participants in TANF since 2000, although the recent troubles have reversed that trend since 2008. In FY 2009 the amount of the annual block grant to States was $16.5 billion.  As of January, 2010, there were 1,078,413 adult participants. This is 0.35% of the entire U. S. population.

The welfare leeches of Ronald Reagan’s political rhetoric are gone. The country listened to Reagan and actually implemented program reforms to eliminate the possibility of perpetual welfare slackers.  It is time for current political rhetoric to catch up to the changes that were made more than ten years ago.

Please get up to speed. You can’t blame the Federal budget deficit on welfare queens  any more.

Date: July 12, 2012

Guidance concerning waiver and expenditure authority under 42 U.S.C.  § 1315


Written by Tom Fox

07/28/2011 at 11:53 am

Posted in Politics

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