ColorLines: Congress Blows Chance to Reform Welfare

Yvonne Yen Liu takes Congress to task over its failure to reduce poverty.

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Welfare has been extended by Congress this week, without any major changes, and is now on President Obama's desk waiting to be signed into law. This is bad for two reasons. First, it doesn’t address some of the fundamental problems with the welfare program. TANF, or Temporary Aid for Needy Families, was changed in 1996 to do four things, as Diana Spatz, the executive director of Lifetime, a welfare-rights advocacy organization based in the Bay Area, characterizes it:

1.      Get people off welfare

2.      Promote marriages for single mothers

3.      Promote any job as a good job for welfare recipients

4.      Reduce so-called illegitimate children with abstinence programs for single women.

Not one of these goals was about reducing poverty, although they reveal how patriarchal the authors of the welfare system were. The net result of the 1996 reform, as Seth Wessler wrote, was to create a catch-22 system, where you need to work in order to get cash aid because you lost your job. The program also placed time limits on how long you could receive assistance from, in some cases, up to 21 months. Single mothers are now reduced to selling their food stamps to pay for things like rent.  

Second, the renewal doesn't include the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund, the only program that created over 250,000 jobs in the past year.

Read the article in its entirety at ColorLines.