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Welfare Reform 10 Years Later Essay

2899 words - 12 pages

Welfare Reform 10 Years LaterOn August 22, 1996, President Clinton signed into law "The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act," a comprehensive bipartisan welfare reform plan that was designed to dramatically change the nation's welfare system into one that required work in exchange for time limited assistance. The bill contained strong work requirements, a performance based bonus to reward states for moving welfare recipients into jobs, state maintenance of effort requirements, comprehensive child care support enforcement, and support for families moving from welfare to work, including increased funding for child care and guaranteed medical coverage.Proponents of this legislation toted it as the answer to reduce poverty, to control waste, fraud and abuse of welfare benefits. Clinton in a speech to congress in 1993 stated "I know from personal conversations with many people that no one, no one wants to change the welfare system as badly as those who are trapped in it. I want to offer the people on welfare the education, the training, the child care, the health care they need to get back on their feet, but say after 2 years they must get back to work, too. We have to end welfare as a way of life and make it a path to independence and dignity."Opponents compared welfare reformers to genocidal maniacs or suggested reformers would have met the approval of barbarians . Ominous claims of an impending "race to the bottom" or the commission of "legislative child abuse" were commonplace. Opponents also regularly invoked religion in an attempt to defeat reforms, suggesting their desperation: "The bill, which will devastate programs for the poorest among us, especially our children, is a moral outrage and an affront to the basic tenets of every religion."It has been ten years since the welfare reform law was signed by President Clinton. Thanks to provisions in the legislation it self that provided millions of dollars for research, to data reported by states to the federal government, and to national data collected on a routine basis by the Census Bureau, a tremendous volume of information bearing the effects of the legislation has been produced.Reducing welfare dependence and poverty were a major goal of the 1996 welfare reform legislation. Now with 10 years of data we can look back and see if these goals have been achieved. But first we need to look at exactly how this legislation intended to meet these goals.The most important reform was the replacement of the old Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The research on TANF paints a coherent picture that will most certainly stand the test of time. With its emphasis on work, time limits, and sanctions against states that did not move a large percentage of its caseloads into work programs a well as individuals who refuse to meet state requirements. TANF was a historical reversal of entitlement welfare...

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