• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Restoring Personal Responsibility in Welfare

    Fifteen years ago, Congress voted to “end welfare as we know it.” As a result, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program was created (in place of the old Aid to Families with Dependent Children), which, for the first time, inserted work requirements and a five-year time limit for those receiving federal cash assistance.

    The success of the reform was notable. Millions of families left welfare for jobs, and the poverty rate among African-American children dropped to an all-time low.

    Unfortunately, the aspects that made TANF successful have been significantly watered down over the years, as Senate Democrats have blocked reauthorization of the reform law and states have used loopholes to evade work provisions.

    On September 8, the House Committee on Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee held a hearing to discuss the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

    As subcommittee Chairman Geoff Davis (R–KY) noted:

    Despite significant success since welfare reforms were enacted in the 1990s, in Fiscal Year 2010, over four-in-10 TANF families faced no work requirement at all, and less than a third of families facing work requirements actually met them in Fiscal Year 2009.

    Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Public Welfare, Gary D. Alexander, testified that his state has faced a similar issue, noting that in Pennsylvania there are “almost 10,000 individuals…on TANF who [have] been on for more than five years,” and within the last year the state experienced “a 31 percent decrease in the percentage of TANF individuals who are working.”

    Professor Douglas Besharov of the University of Maryland said:

    …even in this time of high unemployment, TANF, and, actually, all major income-support and social welfare programs…should encourage recipients of government assistance to stay connected to the labor force, by which I mean working, seeking work, or seriously increasing their job-related skills.

    The government operates more than 70 different welfare programs, and TANF is just one. Total state and federal welfare spending is edging towards $1 trillion annually with no end in sight. Of all the programs, TANF is the only to include any type of work requirement, and these requirements have been all but pushed aside. It is important that the promotion of self-reliance created by the 1996 reforms is restored, and as Alexander stated: “There is no reason that other benefit programs should not encourage self-reliance.”

    The purpose of any assistance program should be to help people get to a position where they are no longer relying on government aid. As Alexander asserted, “Only a program that values and encourages work first will…create a system that empowers individuals and promotes strong families.”

    Posted in Culture [slideshow_deploy]

    5 Responses to Restoring Personal Responsibility in Welfare

    1. Pat Greenwald says:

      The Republicans and Tea Party people are always preaching to us to take personal responsibility in our lives…such as, we shouldn't put ourselves in a position to have to rely on a government "hand out" like food stamps after we get laid off by a corporation. Yet those who run the corporations, those that the Republicans represent, avoid taking personal responsibility for their own actions by being incorporated and enjoying protections from "limited liability" clauses in their corproate charters when marketing defective products or engaging in other nefarious activities. In a word, hypocrisy. "Don't do as I do, do as I say".

      Corporate Suits Have No Souls http://bud-meyers.blogspot.com/2011/09/corporate-

      • Leatherneck says:

        Hey Pat,
        you conveniently left out the fact that "Corporations" are represented by demicRATS also. Yes, there are times people need welfare, conservatives know that you moron. We just don't see a need for them to make it a lifestyle for decades. TANF PROVED that it can be done, "The success of the reform was notable. Millions of families left welfare for jobs, and the poverty rate among African-American children dropped to an all-time low". Read the article again and try to let the facts soak through you dense lead filled liberal mind.

    2. Lights on... says:

      you ignorant government wantabes are really getting old. Your mind can only take in by your choice, what it's being told…

      play dumb, just dumb or…infiltrator

    3. Michelle says:

      Why are there so many welfare programs? There should be one and that one needs to contain a work requirement that sticks! I have to agree with Leatherneck on this one–I don't have a problem helping out those who need the help in tough times, but it was never meant "to make it a lifestyle for decades" or generations for that matter. The only thing majority dependence on government hand-outs ever got anyone was tyrannical government, but then again I digress.

    4. lights on says:

      my comment was a direct response from Pat's so there is no misunderstanding…

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.

    ×