Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

Recognizing the Problem/Setting the Agenda

There has always been poverty in the U.S. A man named Robert Hunter wrote a book called Poverty published in 1904. It stated that between 12% to 25% of Americans lived in poverty during that time. After the book came out it shined a light on the situation. People got more involved in stopping this by creating programs and enforcing statutes addressing the quality of food, water, and sanitation for the urban poor. When the Great Depression hit Roosevelt expanded the power of the federal government by creating jobs, housing, and social welfare policies that included income and insurance for needy Americans. Aid to Families With Dependent Children(AFDC) was also created to provide cash assistance to families living below the official poverty line. Although these programs were created government assistance was still increasing.

Formulating the Policy

The conservatives were not fond of the programs created. They argued saying the programs would not work . They said the people would become too dependent on the program and try not to get out of poverty . The two parties agreed that they should help transition families from government assistance to jobs. They just disagreed on how to accomplish the goals. Liberals believed welfare mothers should receive training and work experience to help raise their families living standards by working more and at higher wages. Where as the Conservatives focused more on work requirements and time limits. They argued that the work reform would work best if they focused on creating role models out of mothers, promoting maternal self-esteem and sense of control, and introducing productive daily routines into family life.

Clinton & Ellwood

Clinton was a firm believer about ending welfare. He ran his campaign on the slogan” ending welfare as we know it.” As president Clinton became fond of a man named David Ellwood’s an expert on welfare and a professor at Harvard University. Ellwood was appointed co-chair of his welfare task force. He supported Clinton in converting welfare into a transitional system. He wanted to provide assistance to families for a limited time, after which recipients would be required to earn wages from a regular job or a or opportunity program. Low wages would be supplemented by expanded tax credits, access to subsidized children care and health insurance, and guaranteed child support.

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Adopting the Policy

Congress created the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant through the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, as part of a federal effort to “end welfare as we know it.” TANF replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), which had provided cash welfare to poor families with children since 1935. Maintenance of Effort often shortened to “MOE,” refers to the requirement placed upon many federally funded grant programs that the State Education Agency (SEA) and Local Education Agencies (LEA) demonstrate that the level of state and local funding remains relatively constant from year to year .The two groups debated heavily on the programs.

End Welfare As We Now It

In 1994 Clinton proposed a welfare reform that would provide jobs training including time limits and subsidized jobs for those who were having trouble finding work, but it got rejected. When republicans went to the Congressional meeting the focus went to the Republicans proposals to end entitlements to assistance, repeal AFDC and provide state with block grants. The debate focused on five main themes Reforming Welfare to Promote Work and Time Limits, Reducing Projected Spending, Promoting Parental Responsibility, Addressing Out-of-Wedlock Births, and Promoting Devolution. They welfare reform bill was vetoed twice. After a third try they came up with a decision Senate voted 74-24 and the House voted 256-170 in favor of welfare reform legislation. This reform replaced the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program.


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Implementing the Policy

The U.S Department of Health and Human Services enforces the program through the Office of Family Assistance. The programs set out to meet 4 goals. The goals are to provide assistance to needy families so that the children can be cared for in their own homes or in the homes of relatives, end the dependence of needy parents on government benefits by promoting job preparation, work, and marriage, prevent and reduce the incidence of out of wedlock pregnancies and establish annual numerical goals for preventing and reducing the incidence of these pregnancies ,and encourage the formation and maintenance of two parent families. There are requirements that need to be meet in order to be eligible for the program. Although it is ran by the federal government each state has to decide on how they are going to set the guidelines for financial benefits. The main rule the federal government is that the applicant must be resident of the state they are applying for and must be a U.S. citizen or a eligible non citizen.

Evaluating the Policy

Over the past 16 years of TANF 60% of the caseloads have decreased. Since 1994 more than 1.4 million American families stopped receiving welfare checks, and $24 billion has been cut from the food-stamp program. By the 1990 five million people were receiving government assistance.

“Employment of never-married mothers increased by 50%, employment of single mothers with less than a high-school education increased by two-thirds, and employment of young single mothers between the ages of 18 and 24 approximately doubled... poverty among single mothers and among black children had remained stubbornly high. Immediately after the reform, poverty among both groups experienced a dramatic and unprecedented decline, reaching all-time lows.”, says Robert Rector and Jennifer A. Marshall

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Ron Haskins of Social Mobility says, “Some analysts argue that the best solution to the problem of disconnected mothers is to loosen TANF work requirements, especially during recessions.”Disconnected mothers are mothers who did not work steadily and did not receive cash welfare during the recession. These mothers were worse off during the recession. Some say it is better if they loosen the work requirements especially during recessions.

Although there have been positive feedback's there some negative ones too. Some people say we should support low-income families by providing the tools they need to lift themselves out of poverty, rather than just off welfare, and provide a significant increase in funding for child care.

"In 1966, the share of the population living below the poverty (self-sufficiency) threshold was 14.7%; by 2011, it had actually risen — to 15.0%. While the material living conditions of less affluent Americans may have improved over time, when it comes to President Johnson’s original goal — reducing the “causes” rather than the mere “consequences” of poverty — our welfare policies have failed" says Robert Rector and Jennifer A. Marshall from The Heritage Foundation

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