Meanwhile, You Don’t Want To Be Poor In America

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington think tank, has issued a report relating to “welfare reform”, the law that Congress passed and President Clinton signed 17 years ago.

Federal funding for the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program (what used to be called “Aid to Families with Dependent Children” or “welfare”), hasn’t increased since 1996, so inflation has eaten away at the program’s benefits:

Because TANF benefits have declined substantially in value, they do much less to help families escape deep poverty than they did in 1996.  With the exception of Maryland and Wyoming, a poor family relying solely on TANF to provide the basics for its children (such as during a period of joblessness, illness, or disability) in every state is further below the poverty line today than in 1996.

In fact, the inflation-adjusted value of benefits has decreased by more than 20% in 14 states and by more than 30% in 26 states.

Believe it or not, the monthly cash payment to an unemployed woman with two children in Mississippi is $170. Where I live, in one of the highest income states in the country, it’s $424 for a family of three, exactly what it was in 1996 (that’s a 32% decrease in real value).

Of course, there are other Federal programs for poor people, whether they have jobs or not, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or “food stamps”). But you can’t pay the rent or buy shoes with food stamps. Next week, by the way, people receiving food stamps will start getting less. A family of four, other things being equal, will receive $36 less per month.

The CPBP report (with charts):

The food stamp news:

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