NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 29, 2006

Liberals and conservatives agree that new welfare regulations issued by the Bush administration Wednesday will further reduce the nation's welfare rolls.  Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution say tough new requirements for many of the 1.9 million families remaining on welfare will force them to get the skills they need to get private-sector jobs. 

The new regulations represent the first update of the 1996 welfare overhaul, which emphasized work over welfare and led to a nearly 60 percent reduction in welfare caseloads.  Congress wrestled with the revisions for five years before passing them last year.  The regulations unveiled Wednesday go into effect in October to implement the changes Congress ordered.

  • The law requires that 50 percent of a state's welfare recipients participate in 30 hours a week of specific activities to get benefits. The regulations define what can be counted and what cannot. States must supervise and provide verification.
  • Under the original law, states received credits for caseload declines that made it easier to reach their work participation rates. Most states only had to have about 5 percent of their welfare recipients involved in work-related activities. In 2004, about 32 percent of the nation's welfare caseload was fulfilling the requirement.
  • Under the new rules, the caseload reduction credit will be based on 2005 welfare rolls, not 1995. As a result, most states will need to get about 45 percent of their welfare recipients involved in work activities.

In the past, some states have counted activities such as bed rest, shopping, motivational reading and massage toward a recipient's work requirement.  Those likely won't qualify in the future, say observers.

In addition, education and training can be counted only if related to a specific job. Substance abuse and rehabilitation activities will be allowed for up to six weeks per year.

Source: Richard Wolf, "New welfare rules designed to reduce rolls: Update to 1996 overhaul also emphasizes work," USA Today, June 29, 2006.


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