Welfare Rolls Not Expanding to Meet Crisis

The 1996 reform is making it tougher for needy to get help as economy flatlines
By Jim O'Neill,  Newser User
Posted Feb 2, 2009 7:27 AM CST
People wait to talk to unemployment benefits staff at an Employment Development Department office in San Jose, Calif.   (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
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(Newser) – Welfare programs, rewritten in 1996 to give individual states more control, do not seem to be responding to the growing needs of the disadvantaged as the economy tanks and unemployment soars, reports the New York Times. Some 18 states—including many of those with the highest job losses—actually cut their welfare rolls last year, and the national figures remain at or very near a 40-year low.

While supporters say welfare will take care of the neediest, and that the worst effects of unemployment haven't yet kicked in, critics say states have put up obstacles to getting help. “We would expect that when a deep recession happens, people could go back on welfare,” says one of the GOP architects of the overhaul. “Most states are not doing enough to help families get back on the rolls.”