NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

States Block Welfare Reform

March 11, 1997

As many as one million people were to be removed from food stamp distributions this month. But a growing number of states are delaying the cuts for hundreds of thousands of recipients.

  • So far, 40 states and the District of Columbia have submitted or received waivers under a provision of the new welfare law to continue handing out food stamps to jobless adults because they live in areas where few jobs are available.
  • Under the new law, food-stamp recipients 18 to 50 years old without dependent children were to lose aid after three months -- counting from last December or January in most states -- if they had not found a job or entered a workfare program.
  • But the provision included an escape clause allowing states to exempt areas with high unemployment or an excessive number of workers.
  • Requests for waivers of the requirement have been pouring into the Department of Agriculture and the Clinton administration "is trying to be as responsive as possible," according to the deputy administrator of the food-stamp program.

In Illinois, at least 44,000 of the 61,000 adults once in danger of losing benefits can stay on the rolls for at least another year and the head of the state's food stamp bureau says he is "disappointed" that all 61,000 could not be exempted. He admits that his staff "massaged" the state's unemployment and labor-surplus data to persuade the federal government to exempt as much of the state as possible.

In New York, advocates for the poor are claiming a "big victory" because nearly 80 percent of adult beneficiaries can stay on the rolls.

Source: Christopher Georges, "Many States, Overwhelmed, Delay the Moment When Food-Stamp Ax Comes Crashing Down," Wall Street Journal, March 11, 1997.


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