NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Some Counties Are "Welfare Free" As All Recipients Get Jobs

August 15, 2000

Some counties in Illinois have moved all former welfare recipients into jobs and off welfare rolls. Schuyler County was the first in the state and one of the first in the nation to be "welfare free." Welfare officials said they found the last cases to be the most difficult, due to mental illness and substance abuse. But with fewer cases to handle, they had more time and resources to apply to the tough ones.

  • For more than a year, there have been no new cases in Schuyler County, no old cases resurfacing and no one on the rolls receiving welfare assistance.
  • Of the 102 counties in Illinois, four others had no welfare cases in July, and a total of 53 had fewer than 20 cases each.
  • Schuyler welfare officials matched beneficiaries with jobs, then follow up by calling workers every two to three weeks for five months to make sure the person kept the job -- and finally forming a "5 o'clock club" where the remaining jobless could meet each Monday to share their job-hunting experiences.
  • Illinois officials report that the number of families receiving cash assistance there has dropped from 247,800 in 1994 to 86,600 at present.

Opponents of welfare reform have long warned that getting rid of welfare completely would be impossible, because some cases were just too intractable to solve. The experience in Illinois casts doubt on that assumption, reformers note.

Source: Robert Pear, "How One County Cleared the Welfare Rolls," New York Times, August 14, 2000.


Browse more articles on Tax and Spending Issues