Welfare Rolls Rising for First Time Since '90s

Tide of middle-class jobless could seriously strain program
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 17, 2008 7:57 AM CST
Chad Bennett uses the computer to look for a job at the Work Force Plus employment center, Thursday, Dec. 11, 2008, in Tallahassee, Fla.    (AP Photo/Phil Coale)
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(Newser) – Welfare numbers are rising in many states for the first time since public assistance was redefined more than a decade ago, the Washington Post reports. The numbers are still small compared to the days before welfare was retooled to steer people into jobs, but at least a dozen states say welfare rolls have begun climbing, and applications are surging in several others.

Many of those seeking benefits for the first time are middle class Americans who have suddenly lost jobs and savings, fueling fears that the program, focused on getting people into jobs, won't work if there are no jobs to be gotten. "If there is no employment out there to get, then what?" asks one employment manager. Says a Maryland benefits official, "the problem is, what we are seeing here is something that looks more like 1936 than 1996."