Welfare has been a safety net for many Americans, when the alternative for them is going without food and shelter. Over the years, the government has provided income for the unemployed, food assistance for the hungry, and health care for the poor. The federal government in the nineteenth century started to provide minimal benefits for the poor. During the twentieth century the United States federal government established a more substantial welfare system to help Americans when they most needed it. In 1996, welfare reform occurred under President Bill Clinton and it significantly changed the structure of welfare. Social Security has gone through significant change from FDR’s signing of the program into law to President George W. Bush’s proposal of privatized accounts.
The increase in industrialization in the U.S. during the 1820’s caused a rise in homelessness. Women made up the majority of the homeless population. During the beginning of the nineteenth century, private charities helped provide food and shelter for the homeless. Towards the end of the nineteenth century men became the majority of the homeless population. The federal government created “mother’s pension laws” which were protective labor laws that assisted poor women and children. Shelters required a work test for men to enter and only allowed them to stay for a limited amount of time. Charities did not help men in the nineteenth century (Homelessness in the United States).
On October 29, 1929, the roaring twenties ended. The U.S. stock market crashed and the
Great Depression began. Those who had invested in the stock market for retirement saw
their investments disappear. President Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal” focused first on
providing employment for the millions unemployed. Federal money was distributed to the
states to fund public works projects to employ the jobless (Trattner 273-304).
In his State of the Union speech on January 4, 1935, President Roosevelt told Congress
that it was necessary to create federal unemployment and old-age pension program, as well
as benefits for single mothers and poor children. On August 18, 1935, President Roosevelt
signed into law the Social Security Act. This was a federal retirement program for people
over the age of sixty-five, and it also created unemployment insurance. In 1936, Aid to
Families with Dependent Children was created to provide money to single mothers with
children. In 1964, Congress approved a food stamp program to low income households. In
1965, Medicaid was created to provide health insurance for the poor, elderly, and disabled.
In 1974, the Supplemental Security Income program was established. In 1996, the U.S.
Congress passed a law and President Clinton signed it, which gave the states primary control
regarding welfare, ending sixty-one years of federal control (Trattner 273-304).
Over the years, welfare programs have often been criticized. Critics of the welfare
program argue too many people...