A study released by the Tufts University’s Center on Hunger and Poverty reports that the enactment of “welfare reform” policies in two-thirds of the states may push the poor into greater poverty. The Center surveyed all 50 states on their implementation of the 1996 federal welfare overhaul, concluding that only 14 states have passed reforms that are likely to improve the economic conditions of the poor, while the “majority are failing and failing badly.”
Researchers assessed 34 policy decisions that the federal government left up to the states in the 1996 welfare reform bill, including child care, health coverage and job and education training.
Director of research John T. Cook commented, “I think a part of what we hope the report will accomplish is to send a wake-up call to the nation, to those states … [that] are not, in fact, using the new prerogatives that they were given to actually accomplish the central promise of welfare reform — and that is to improve the lives of the people.”
States in the South and Midwest scored the poorest. Idaho scored lowest, while Vermont scored the highest. Welfare recipients in Vermont can lose cash benefits, but they continue to receive healthcare, housing and other necessities without exception. If the recipient cannot find a job, they are required to work in a nonprofit setting.