Stupid Idea Dethroned: Welfare Causes Riches

The conditions of the poor in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast are serving as fodder for the argument that “welfare provides financial incentives for people to be enrolled in it.”

Rather than argue with this logical nonsequitor, I am reproducing the facts of “TANF” in Louisiana. Then you go explain it to Jesus how welfare makes the poor into corrupt rich, because I don’t get it. (All data is taken verbatim from National Center for Children in Poverty.)

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance is a federal-state program—the federal government sets basic rules for administering TANF cash assistance, but states have responsibility for developing their programs and income eligibility limits and benefit levels vary widely across the states.

Eligibility Criteria
Income eligibility criteria
Federal rules or guidelines Families must be needy, as defined by the state.
Applicant earnings limit for 1-parent family of 3 $4,320/year (2002)
Treatment of child support income No pass-through/disregard. (2004)
Asset eligibility criteria
Assets disregarded for eligibility determination No (2002)
Applicant asset limit $2,000 (2002)
Recipient asset limit $2,000 (2002)
Treatment of vehicles in asset test Excludes all vehicles owned by household (2002)
Two-parent families’ eligibility
Two-parent families eligible on same basis as 1-parent families Yes (2003)
Immigrant eligibility criteria
Federal restrictions on lawful permanent residents’ (LPRs) access to benefits. LPRs are generally barred during their first 5 years as LPRs; “deeming” may affect eligibility in other cases. (2004)
LPRs eligible for state-funded benefits when barred from federal No (2004)

Participant Requirements
Work requirements
Federal rules or guidelines Recipients must participate in work activities after reaching a trigger limit of no more than 24 months. States determine work requirements for families but lose some federal funds if a sufficient portion of their caseload does not meet federal work participation criteria.
Work trigger limit 24 months (2000)
Education as a work activity
Post-secondary training or education can fulfill work req Yes (2002)
Education/training is sufficient to fulfill work requirement In some cases (2002)
Time limit on education/training fulfilling work req. 12 months (2002)

Benefit level
Monthly max benefit for family of 3 $240/month (2002)
Annual max benefit for family of 3 $2,880/year (2002)
Earned income disregard for benefit calculation $120/month (2002)
Time limit on benefit receipt
Federal rules or guidelines There is a lifetime time limit of 60 months on a family’s receipt of federally-funded benefits, but states may exempt up to 20% of their caseload from this limit and/or use state funds to extend benefits.
Lifetime time limit 60 months (2002)
Benefits continue to children after reaching lifetime time limit No (2002)
Marriage incentives
Marriage incentives provided No (2003)

Sanction policies
First sanction Benefit reduced by adult portion for 3 months (2002)
Max sanction Case is closed until compliance (2002)

Number of recipients
Number of recipients (families) 23,700 families (FY 2002)
Number of recipients (parents and children) 60,704 individuals (FY 2002)
Percent of caseload that is child-only 50% (FY 2002)

Total spending $66.5 million (FY 2002)
Spending per recipient
Spending per family $2,807/year (FY 2002)
Spending per person $1,096/year (FY 2002)

Let’s get this straight, for the last time. Welfare is over. Bill Clinton and Newt Gingerich ended it in 1996. What we have left is a dysfunctional, broken system that doesn’t even cover the basic needs of the most vulnerable people in it: the children of poverty.

It’s not welfare. It’s not the poor. It’s the poverty, stupid.

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