Updated 12-2-97



The New Law


S. Carolina


State Links
State Caseloads
Block Grants

Related Stories

The Great American Welfare Lab Wisconsin has cut its rolls by half. Many former recipients are working, but where have the rest of them gone? By Adam Cohen/TIME (4/21/97)

A Blue-Ribbon County Marquette County, Wisconsin, sheds its welfare load. By Adam Cohen/TIME (4/21/97)

Let Them Eat Birthday Cake Clinton's welfare reform dismays the President's favorite poverty scholar By Jack E. White/TIME (9/2/96)

Ripping Up Welfare With not a little drama, Clinton grudgingly approves the G.O.P. bill, and the U.S. starts a vast and risky experiment By George J. Church/TIME (8/12/96)

Related Sites

The Department of Health and Human Services Welfare Reform Page

Health and Human Services Welfare Reform Fact Sheet



Should Congress restore welfare funds for legal immigrants?





Since the transformation of Aid to Families With Dependent Children to block grants, federal and state governments have crafted a combination of guidelines designed to cut welfare caseloads.

While the federal law has outlined a host of new or revised regulations, most of the states have received waivers that allow them to write their own rules.

States with waivers can tailor welfare programs to their populations, rather than conforming to a one-size-fits-all federal pattern. States have until July 1, 1997, to submit their plans and begin operating their new welfare programs.

Most states are blazing their own trails. They are distinguishing their programs in a variety of ways:

  • Mandating more stringent time restrictions on benefits
  • Offering counseling, job training programs and employer subsidies
  • Encouraging welfare recipients to save money
  • Instituting more stringent work requirements
  • Reducing the benefits of those who have more children while receiving aid
  • Creating transitional child care and medical services
  • Requiring drug testing for welfare recipients, as two states do now
  • Continuing to provide cash welfare benefits to non-citizen legal immigrants who were in the country before August 22, 1996, when the new welfare law was signed.

Many states are pushing control even further down; their county- or city-specific pilot programs can address truly local issues.

In an effort to "make work pay," the states are allowing people to keep more of their earnings, which enables recipients to save some of their money and get on the path to self-sufficiency.

Over one-third of the states say they will help low-income families stay off welfare by providing financial support during temporary setbacks.

Child-support tracking and collection is also getting a boost; the federal law now requires hospitals to help establish paternity. Child support collection programs have been designed to allow families to keep more of their support payments.

Many states are focusing on children. They have added educational incentives to encourage people to finish high school or college. Some programs mandate that minors must live at home while receiving assistance.

No two states have identical welfare experiments going. Some interesting combinations of incentives and penalties are found in California, South Carolina and Wisconsin. And many already implementation of the law has created unexpected challenges.


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