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Saturday, August 18, 2007.  



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The History of Welfare to Work

The aftermath of the Great Depression left many previously employed individuals severely destitute and hopeless. In the famous first hundred days of his presidency, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt committed his administration to alleviate some of the pain and suffering that much of our nation was experiencing.

The passage of the Social Security Act in 1935 furthered public aid by providing for care, through pensions and public assistance for the aged; unemployment insurance; and aid to dependent children in single parent families, among other provisions. The act commonly became known as the savior of widows and children and has had many far reaching effects. For example, responsibility for dispensing aid was now placed on the state; men and women were finally presented with an outlet that could help them escape the deepest throes of poverty with dignity; and perhaps most significantly, temporary assistance helped to restore hope for many individuals in themselves and in our nation.


On August 22, 1996 President Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. The president emphatically stated that this moment should be "remembered not for what it ended but for what it began, a new day that offers hope, honors responsibility, rewards work, and changes the terms of the debate." (President Clinton's remarks at the signing ceremony August 22, 1996, taken from the White House web page)

The new law was a result of bipartisan efforts to significantly alter our nation's pre-existing welfare system into one that promotes work, while providing time-limited assistance. Welfare reform calls for strict work requirements, incentives for states to effectively move recipients into the workforce, regulated maintenance of state efforts, and support for families moving from welfare to work. The support ensures medical coverage, child care provisions, and greater child support enforcement.

The result of reform thus far has been astounding. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services " there continue to be dramatic declines in welfare caseloads. Remarkable declines in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF) caseloads continued through FY 2001. At the end of that fiscal year, the average monthly number of TANF recipients was 5.4 million, or 56 percent lower than the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) caseload in FY 1996. From its peak of 14.4 million in March 1994, the number of recipients dropped by 63.2 percent to 5.3 million in September 2001. Over three-fourths of the reduction in the U.S. average monthly number of recipients since March 1994 occurred following implementation of TANF. These are the largest caseload declines in the history of U.S. Public assistance programs. The 5.4 million persons receiving TANF in FY 2001 was the smallest number since 1967, and the lowest percentage of the population receiving assistance since 1961."

Welfare reform has been largely successful because of the effective partnering of businesses, service providers, government agencies and the new addition of business intermediaries to link them together. The coordination of these entities work on various levels to contribute to the common goal of moving individuals from welfare to work.

For the History of The Welfare to Work Partnership click here.