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Safety Net Spending Is Supposed to Rise in a Weak Economy

February 9, 2012 at 2:08 PM

In my blog post this week for US News & World Report, I highlight CBPP’s recent analyses of safety net programs and explain why the rise in spending on most of these programs during the Great Recession and subsequent slow recovery is an important feature of them, not a sign of something amiss:

[B]ecause these social safety net programs expand to meet the greater needs in a weak economy, they cushion the loss of purchasing power, keep the economy from weakening further, and prevent still more job loss. But because those increases are temporary, they do not add much if anything to the long-term budget deficit.

An important safety net program that doesn’t fulfill this role is Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).  Because TANF is a block grant with fixed federal funding, it does not respond to increased need — a major reason why proposals to convert other programs to block grants are seriously misguided.


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