NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

What's Ahead for Welfare?

October 22, 2001

Now that the U.S. economy is on the skids, will welfare recipients continue to find jobs and move off the rolls at the same remarkable pace they did during the boom years of the late 1990s? Experts say the prospects are still not clear and we may not have the answer for another six months.

  • Since welfare reform passed Congress in 1996, the number of people receiving benefits has been cut by about half.
  • Federal welfare statistics -- which are about six months behind -- show welfare rolls rising in only about one-third of the states.
  • The average woman who moved from welfare to work took an entry-level job paying about $8,000 to $12,000 a year -- not enough to build up a rainy day fund and often not enough to qualify for unemployment benefits.
  • About 39 percent of jobless people looking for work are collecting unemployment benefits, and researchers estimate that a smaller percentage of former welfare recipients -- perhaps as low as 20 percent -- will qualify.

Some experts dismiss the gloomy outlook, saying that former recipients have tasted independence and will do whatever it takes to remain independent.

Welfare reforms are up for renewal next year.

Source: Barbara De Lollis (Gannett News Service), "Economic Downturn Threatens Welfare Program," USA Today, October 22, 2001.


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