The End of Welfare as We Know It

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1997/03/the-worst-thing-bill-clinton-has-done/376797/

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/04/the-end-of-welfare-as-we-know-it/476322/

By the numbers, welfare reform was a success. More than 13 million people received cash assistance from the government in 1995, before the law was passed. Today, just 3 million do…

On April 1, between 500,000 and one million childless adults will lose access to food stamps…

Before she lived on the streets, she worked as a registered nurse for 20 years. But a series of events—she declined to specify—knocked her out of steady work and into homelessness, and getting back on her feet is hard. The only public assistance she qualifies for is food stamps, but on April 1, that will end.

“They’re shutting off the only benefit I have,” she says, straightening the pink bandanna that covers her dark hair.

The knowledge that her benefits will be ending equips her with little that she didn’t already have. She’s been trying to find a job, but it’s hard with nowhere to sleep, no cash coming in, no steady meal. She needs to renew her nursing license but doesn’t have the resources to do so; even finding money for a bus pass is tough. A nearby church gives them out sometimes, but recently, they’ve run out, she says…

So why doesn’t someone like Stacy just do that and avoid losing her food stamps? For one, finding a place to volunteer or work can be very hard for those who don’t have phones, mailing addresses, or work clothes. Many do not have the education or wherewithal to find a volunteer position…

The consequences of a dialed-down safety net might not be so dire if the state were thriving, but that’s not the case. Arkansas consistently ranks at the bottom of the nation’s poverty rankings: In 2014, nearly one in five people lived below the poverty line ($23,834 for a family of four), making the state 48th richest in the nation including the District of Columbia. (Only Louisiana, Mississippi, and New Mexico were poorer.) …

The state focused on reducing the welfare caseloads by disqualifying people, rather than on helping people get a job, he said. For many people, the hoops to jump through to get on TEA are so confusing that they don’t apply at all. By law, the state is supposed to assess recipients when they apply for TEA and refer them to a service that can help them find a job, go back to school, or get vocational training. But in many cases, Huddleston said, people get referred to services that don’t exist in their area of the state…

Raquel Williams knows how difficult it is to go through the process of applying for and receiving TEA. A year ago, Williams was steadily employed in Texarkana, Texas, in a state unemployment office. But when her husband, an EMT transporter, couldn’t find work, he convinced her to quit her job and move with their children to Little Rock so he could find a job there. She had trouble in her job search from the start, but their problems multiplied when he was shot on December 26. He survived the shooting, but can’t work and can’t walk. So Williams started looking for a job…

The number of families with children who reported that the only benefit they received was SNAP grew 143 percent between 1996 and 2006…

Between 1996 and 2011, even as the welfare rolls were shrinking and more one-time recipients were moving to work, extreme poverty was increasing. During that time, the number of families living on $2 a day or less rose 150 percent, to 1.65 million…

Living in extreme poverty has very real consequences for families, Shaefer said. Reduced TANF access in states is associated with higher food insecurity, increased child homelessness, a jump in foster-care placement, and more juvenile detention [along with more drug abuse, addiction, mental illness, and suicide], according to soon-to-be-published research by Shaefer and colleagues. Not having access to cash means people can’t pay the rent and then become homeless, and homelessness leads to stress, which can hurt people emotionally and physically. Families are often forced to sell their food stamps, their plasma, their bodies, to get access to cash to survive on, he said…

According to Shaefer and Edin, nearly 75 percent of low-income single mothers were employed by 2000, up from 58 percent in 1993. But even those that did find jobs weren’t necessarily lifted out of poverty, but were instead often kept there by low wages, just-in-time scheduling, and not enough hours…

Hey, Rick Scott, are these the kind of jobs you were talking about?

And then, they’ll disappear off the government’s rolls, just as the welfare recipients have. The numbers of people receiving food stamps will drop, and thousands more people won’t be able to eat, or survive. But to the policymakers who look for a shrinking welfare program, the changes will be considered a success.

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