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 Home > News & Policies > February 2002

February 26, 2002


In 1996, a Republican Congress and a Democratic Administration came together to reach a historic, bipartisan agreement to refo rm the welfare system.  This historic welfare reform has been one of the greatest public policy successes in decades:

  •    Since 1996, welfare dependency has plummeted.  The number of individuals receiving cash assistance has dropped by 56 p ercent.
  •    Even in a recession, national welfare caseloads are not rising significantly. Instead, they have stabilized.
  •    Since the law's passage, more single mothers are employed than ever before.
  •    Child poverty rates are at their lowest level since 1978, and both African-American child poverty rates and poverty am ong children in female-headed families are at their lowest level in history.
  •    The rate of births to unwed mothers has leveled off.

Even with these notable successes, much remains to be done to improve the welfare system for those in need - and to help welfa re recipients on the path to self-reliance and independence.

As part of the 1996 reforms, Congress ended the welfare entitlement under the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) p rogram, and replaced it with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, a $16.6 billion per year block grant to states and territories.  Under TANF, welfare recipients are required to work in exchange for time-limited benefits, and sta tes enjoy significant flexibility in designing the eligibility criteria and benefit rules. Additionally, Congress provided bon uses to states for high performance and for reducing non-marital births.

President Bush proposes to build on the success of the bipartisan 1996 reform law by making welfare even more focused on the w ell-being of children and supportive of families.  His plan will strengthen and improve the TANF program by maintaining the sa me overall funding level ($16.6 billion per year) and basic structure established under the 1996 welfare reform law - while ma king improvements in several key areas to encourage welfare recipients to work toward independence.