NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 26, 2007

The number of families receiving cash benefits from welfare has plummeted since the government imposed time limits on the payments a decade ago.  But other programs for the poor, including Medicaid, food stamps and disability benefits, are bursting with new enrollees.  The result: Nearly one in six people rely on some form of public assistance, a larger share than at any time since the government started measuring two decades ago.

  • In 2005, about 5.1 million people received monthly welfare payments from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and similar state programs, a 60 percent drop from a decade before; but other government programs grew, offsetting the declines.
  • About 44 million people nearly one in six in the country relied on government services for the poor in 2003, according to the most recent statistics compiled by the Census Bureau; that compares with about 39 million in 1996.

Also, the number of people getting government aid continues to increase, according to more recent enrollment figures from individual programs:

  • Medicaid rolls alone topped 45 million people in 2005, pushed up in part by rising health care costs and fewer employers offering benefits.
  • Nearly 26 million people a month received food stamps that year.
  • Cash welfare recipients, by comparison, peaked at 14.2 million people in 1994.

Critics of the welfare overhaul say the numbers offer fresh evidence that few former recipients have become self-sufficient, even though millions have moved from welfare to work. They say the vast majority have been forced into low-paying jobs without benefits and few opportunities to advance.

Source: Stephen Ohlemacher, "Welfare State Growing Despite Overhauls," Associated Press/ABC News


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