NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

States Counting Up Welfare Budget Surpluses

August 24, 1999

As welfare reform enters its fourth year, states hold surpluses of $4.2 billion in unspent welfare funds. Caseloads are down by an average of 40 percent nationwide and most former welfare recipients are working -- confounding reform critics who predicted in 1996 that countless families would be thrown into poverty, with nowhere to turn.

  • So far, thirteen states have cut their welfare rolls in half -- led by Idaho, Wyoming and Wisconsin, which have all seen caseloads sliced by over 80 percent.
  • Mississippi, Florida and South Carolina have all seen declines of between 69 to 63 percent.
  • Rhode Island leads the laggards with reductions of only 5 percent -- bettered at the low end of the scale by Nebraska, Minnesota, New Mexico and Alaska.
  • The nation's governors, meanwhile, are imploring Congress not to tamper with their $16.5 billion a year in welfare grants.

Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation is urging states to use unspent welfare funds to combat illegitimacy and promote marriage -- since single parenthood is the primary reason families turn to welfare.

Source: Cheryl Wetzstein, "States Beg Congress Not to Cut Funds to Get Jobless to Work," Washington Times, August 22, 1999.


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