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Welfare reform - at a glance

The 1996 welfare reform law is up for reauthorization by Congress in September. The law was undeniably successful in the goal of reducing the number of people receiving welfare: The rolls were halved within a few years of enactment. However, critics say that many people who have been moved off welfare are still struggling to get by, and the welfare system needs to adopt a larger goal of reducing poverty.

With portraits of women aided by and struggling with the new welfare system, NCR takes a look at some of the issues surrounding reauthorization, including:

  • The need for “work supports” programs such as childcare and transportation assistance that ease welfare recipients’ transition to the work force.
  • The need to help the “hard-to-employ” who remain on the welfare rolls.
  • The consequences of sanctions that reduce benefits and time limits on cash payments in the midst of an economic downturn.
  • States’ neglect of the welfare legislation’s goal of strengthening marriage and reducing out-of-wedlock births.

National Catholic Reporter, March 1, 2002