When welfare-to-work doesn't work

Network, the Catholic social justice lobby in Washington, has been monitoring the effectiveness of the so-called "welfare-to-work" laws since Bill Clinton made welfare reform a keystone of his presidency in 1996. Network recently released its latest evaluation and found that in today's economic climate, the programs are severely lacking. See TANF Tested: Lives of Families in Poverty during the Recession (TANF stands for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families).

John Gehring, who blogs at Faith in Public Life, called Network's report "sobering," and he suggested that it "should be read by any elected official or citizen concerned about our nation's fraying social safety net."

Gehring says the report "paints a bleak picture of what happens when the good intentions of 'welfare reform' crash into the realities of the worst economy since the Great Depression."

The report includes the following key findings:

Help fund independent Catholic journalism.
Donate now.

  • Since the recession began, government programs have provided limited assistance to people who lost their homes or livelihoods, but families at the very bottom of the economic ladder have not received sufficient help from one of the major programs meant just for them—Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

  • TANF’s “Work First” emphasis is problematic during periods of high unemployment and low wages.

  • Food stamp (SNAP) and other nutrition programs don’t reach enough families in need.

  • Limited access to education and quality job training keep unemployment rates high.

  • Many people face more than one barrier to employment, including transportation, child care, disability, domestic violence, and language barriers.

Support independent reporting on important issues.

 One family graphic_2016_250x103.jpg

Show comments

NCR Comment code: (Comments can be found below)

Before you can post a comment, you must verify your email address at Disqus.com/verify.
Comments from unverified email addresses will be deleted.

  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the original idea will be deleted. NCR reserves the right to close comment threads when discussions are no longer productive.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report abuse" button. Once a comment has been flagged, an NCR staff member will investigate.

For more detailed guidelines, visit our User Guidelines page.

For help on how to post a comment, visit our reference page.

Commenting is available during business hours, Central time, USA. Commenting is not available in the evenings, over weekends and on holidays. More details are available here. Comments are open on NCR's Facebook page.