Trends in Welfare Programs

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have been stalemated in their attempts to reauthorize the nation’s welfare bill. The stalemate between the House (following the administration’s lead) and the Senate over work requirements, childcare dollars and superwaivers has left the original welfare bill unchanged through several “continuing resolutions.” In the meantime, states’ welfare programs have weathered an economic downturn. While nationwide caseloads continued to decline, some states experienced significant increases in their caseloads. While all states funded a broad array of services as well as basic assistance through their welfare programs, there was considerable variation in funding emphasis. States’ flexibility could be curtailed in the future, however, if reauthorization proceeds along the lines proposed.

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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. She also manages the income and employment area of the Institute’s Assessing the New Federalism project. 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.

Jennifer Holland is a research assistant in the Income and Benefits Policy Center at the Urban Institute. Since completion of her B.A. at Vassar College in 2002, she hasfocused on issues related to the TANF program.