Trends in Welfare Programs

Congress reauthorized the nation’s welfare bill along with the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. The legislation substantially changes TANF’s work participation requirements. States will need to meet a 50 percent participation rate for all families receiving assistance, including those in separate state-funded programs. The rate will be adjusted downward for any caseload decline occurring after 2005. The new participation requirement will present a challenge to many states. Current work participation rates generally fall substantially below the new requirement. Also, many states have depleted their TANF reserve funds, leaving them little flexibility to develop new strategies to increase work among caseload participants.

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About the Authors
Sheila R. Zedlewski is the director of the Income and Benefits Policy Center at the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan think tank located in Washington, D.C. Her recent work focuses on understanding low-income family participation in government programs. She has written extensively about the TANF program with a focus on families unable to move from welfare to work.

Meghan Williamson is a research assistant in the Income and Benefits Policy Center at the Urban Institute. Since completing her B.A. at the College of William and Mary in 2004, she has focused on issues related to the TANF program.