Welfare Reform at 18

Chart Book: TANF at 18

Eighteen years ago, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant was created as a part of the 1996 welfare reform law to replace the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program.

Taking into account the full 18 years of TANF’s history, this chart book illustrates the following facts:

  • Over time, TANF has provided basic cash assistance to fewer and fewer needy families, even when need has increased.
  • During the recession and slow recovery, TANF served few families in need. 
  • The amount of cash assistance provided to families has eroded in almost every state, leaving families without sufficient funds to meet their most basic needs.
  • TANF plays much less of a role in reducing poverty than AFDC did — and the provision of less cash assistance has contributed to an increase in deep or extreme poverty.
  • Although a key focus of welfare reform was on increasing employment among cash assistance recipients, states spend little of their TANF funds to help improve recipients’ employability.   

Employment among single mothers increased in the 1990’s, but welfare reform was only one of several contributing factors — and most of the early gains have been lost. Read more

More: Welfare Reform Analyses

Understanding Poverty and the Safety Net

Ryan’s “Opportunity Grant” Would Likely Force Cuts in Food and Housing Assistance

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan maintains that consolidating 11 safety-net and related programs into a single “Opportunity Grant” would give states the flexibility to provide specialized services to low-income people.  But providing these additional services would require cutting assistanc funded through the Opportunity Grant to other needy people.  And because SNAP (formerly food stamps) and housing assistance together make up more than 80 percent of the Oppoertunity Grant, the cuts would almost certainly reduce families’ access to these programs, which are effective at reducing poverty — particularly deep poverty. Read more

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