Welfare Reform in the United States

Americans are some of the most generous people in the world, even when they are not trying to be. From its first enactment into law in 1935, to its current state the U.S. Welfare system has assisted hundreds of thousands of people in need. From depression to recession the U.S. Welfare system has changed constantly its role in society providing assistance to the elderly, to dependent children, and to the unemployed.

The funding for the welfare system derives from the payroll taxes of everyone, including those who depend on the welfare system. Even though some people need welfare, recipients should work because work reduces the outside dependency for assistance, and aids in lowering taxpayer cost. The true purpose of the welfare system is not to live for free, or to take advantage, but to help fellow citizens to stand back up when they have fallen down.

The purpose and funding of welfare in the United States The purpose of the welfare system is to provide assistance to those who have little to no income. The United States system of welfare derived its beginnings from the Social Security Act of 1935. The Social Security Act was enacted and signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. According to National Center for Public Policy Research (2003), [to make more adequate provision for aged persons, blind persons, dependent and crippled children, maternal and child welfare] (The Social Security Act (Act of August 14, 1935), para.

1). The act also encompassed those in the category of disabled, blind, and crippled. The Social Security Act was amended in 1939 to include dependent and survivor benefits of veterans. In 1956 the Social Security Act was again amended to include the Social Security Disability Insurance program.

The Social Security Act was amended, maintained and funded by the federal government through the use of payroll taxes known as FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act) these funds were given to the states in the form of grants. According to U S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children & Families (2008), "[the net federal funds available and spent in Fiscal Year 2008 were $13,727,526,815.]” (Overview of Federal Funds Available and Spent in FY 2008 by Grant Year).

The control and distribution of benefits were turned over to the individual states in August 1996. This act occurred when President Clinton signed into law (PRWORA) The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. Each state distributes the funds received amongst a variety of different programs slated to give assistance to those in need.

Benefits and programs of the Welfare System The welfare system provides many benefits to assist individuals and families in need. Some of the benefits according to The Finance Project (2009) "[…cash assistance, child support program, childcare, energy or utility assistance, food assistance, medical assistance, and vocational rehabilitation services.]” (Welfare Programs, para.

1). These are just a few of the program benefits the welfare system has to offer. Many of the cash programs that are available require that the head of household be working, or undergoing job training. The childcare and child support programs are available to those who are actively working or training for work. The benefit of these programs is the assistance in locating, and paying all or part of childcare needs, so the recipient can actively pursue employment.

The energy and utility programs are available to those who cannot afford to pay for basic utility needs. This program is made available to those who fall within the required income levels. According to The Finance Project (2009), "[The welfare programs that provide food stamps, AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children), TANF, and other programs require the same qualifications …and are almost entirely dependent on recipient income]” (Welfare Assistance Works for everyone, para. 6). The medical programs available through the welfare system are in place to assist those people without the medical insurance that is required for basic medical care and doctor visits.

The medical insurance assistance offered by the welfare system is called Medicaid, and Medicare. These two programs help those who are in need of basic health care. This program also helps the recipients to obtain eye care, dental care, and also helps to cover prescription costs. These programs and benefits are available to those in need, but the limitations and duration of benefits are controlled by each individual state and varies accordingly.

Time limitations on welfare The time duration of welfare benefits is various throughout the different states. The limitation of programs funded by the federal government is 60 months. “[…the Federal time limits do not apply to state funded benefits]” (Bloom, Farrell, & Fink, Adam-Ciardullo, 2002, para.

3). There are lifetime limits set in many of the individual states that offer welfare benefits. Some states inform recipients of how many months of benefits are available at the time of application. There are also states that generate notices informing recipients when they have reached 12 months; 36 months; and every month following until benefits end.

Each state has its own exemptions, and exceptions for the set time limits as well as procedures for filing for the extension of benefits. “[All states provide exemptions or extensions from their time limits for certain groups of families, but the policies differ dramatically from state to state]” (Bloom & Et al., 2002, p. 9). There are exemptions and extensions for welfare recipients that have difficulties obtaining employment. Those that have medical issues or histories of domestic violence once these issues are identified by the agency recipients can file for exemptions or extensions.

Extensions are usually granted for those that meet the various program requirements even though the recipient cannot locate employment. Time extensions have been granted in cases in which recipients are working and there are also extensions given to recipients when there are dependent children in the household. The setting of time limitations on welfare has had numerous impacts on the recipients and the agencies that offer the various welfare programs. Most of the time limits serve the same function of transitioning people from welfare to self-sufficiency according to (Bloom, 1999, para. 11) “[…most states have embedded time limits in an array of other requirements, incentives, and services designed to promote employment and self-sufficiency.]”

Transitioning from welfare to work With the use of the available job training programs and educational programs many people have returned to the workforce successfully. The (SRS) Social and Rehabilitation Services program available through welfare in each state has various requirements that recipients must meet. With the use of the available job training programs and educational programs many people have returned to the workforce successfully.

The (SRS) Social and Rehabilitation Services program available through welfare in each state has various requirements that recipients must meet. Some states require that welfare recipients participate in the Social Rehabilitation Services program to receive welfare benefits. Some states have transition programs that work in conjunction with other welfare benefits to make the transitioning process smoother for the recipient.

By locating and providing childcare for recipients, the welfare system makes the recipient more effective in securing the job training or education that is needed for future success. With the enactment of the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act in place President Clinton set guidelines the control the length of time that one can remain on welfare. According to U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (n.d.), "[…recipients must work when determined work ready or after two years on assistance, with few exceptions]” (The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 Making welfare a transition to work, para.

2). By limiting the amount of time a person remains on welfare, there are limits on the amount of government funding that is issued to each state. The funding for welfare recipients that remain in the system beyond the federal time constraints are provided by the individual states through state taxes. Many of these states are enforcing the Work transition programs, and have placed rigid time constraints and rules in place for compliance. The time requirements for welfare benefits and programs vary according to each state’s individual regulations and also depend on the benefit given.

From its beginnings to its current state the U.S. Welfare system is there for the purpose of assisting those in need. The programs, and benefits provided are in place to help those to continue through the difficult and unstable economic periods. The welfare system uses payroll taxes to fund the benefits and programs it provides to the people in times of need. By providing assistance with childcare, utility assistance, medical needs, and job training the welfare system assists those in need, enabling recipients to return to an independent state. These benefits are not offered to only some people but to all that have need. Though the benefits and requirements

for welfare programs may vary from state to state; the main purpose remains the same to help those who are in need to return to the workforce and to regain independence from outside support.

References Bloom, D. (1999). Welfare time limits: An interim report card. Available from http://www.mdrc.org/publications/57/execsum.html

Bloom, D., Farrell, M., & Fink, B. Adam-Ciardullo D. (2002). Welfare Time Limits State Policies Implementation and Effects on Families. Available from http://www.mdrc.org/publications/51/full.pdf

Bloom, D., Farrell, M., & Fink, B. Adam-Ciardullo D. (2002). Welfare time limits State policies, Implementation, and effects on families . Available from http://www.mdrc.org/publications/51/overview.html

National Center for Public Policy Research. (1935).The Social Security Act of 1935. Retrieved from http://www.nationalcenter.org/SocialSecurityAct.html

The Finance Project. (2009). Welfare Information. Retrieved from http://www.welfareinfo.org/programs/

The Finance Project. (2009). Welfare Information. Retrieved from http://www.welfareinfo.org/assistance/

U S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children & Families. (2008). TANF Financial Data. Retrieved from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ofs/data/2008/overview.html

U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). The Next Phase of Welfare Reform: Implementing the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. Retrieved from http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2002pres/welfare.html