Over at the liberal Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, LaDonna Pavetti is taking a look at federal welfare reform, which turns 15 this year.
She contends the program’s recent performance shows it can be a weak safety net. For one thing, as unemployment has surged, the number of people receiving temporary cash assistance through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, has increased only slightly, and at a slower rate than the number seeking food stamps. The proportion of impoverished families who receive aid under the program has declined steadily since the reforms were enacted in 1996.
Pavetti also notes that since TANF operates on a “block grant” model, in which states have more flexibility to decide how they spend the money they receive through the program, the portion of their funds that goes to actual cash assistance for the poor has shrunk. Florida is one of 15 states in which the maximum TANF benefit for families amounts to less than one fifth of the federal poverty level, which is currently $22,350 in gross yearly income for a family of four.