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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Identify the antipoverty government programs that compose the safety net
  • Explain the primary goals of the safety net programs and how these programs have changed over time
  • Discuss the complexities of these safety net programs and why they can be controversial

The U.S. government has implemented a number of programs to assist those below the poverty line and those who have incomes just above the poverty line, who are referred to as the near-poor    . Such programs are called the safety net    , in recognition of the fact that they offer some protection for those who find themselves without jobs or income.

Temporary assistance for needy families

From the Great Depression of the 1930s until 1996, the United States’ most visible antipoverty program was Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) , which provided cash payments to mothers with children who were below the poverty line. This program was often just called “welfare.” In 1996, Congress passed and President Bill Clinton signed into law the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, more commonly called the “welfare reform act.” The new law replaced AFDC with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) .

Visit this website to watch a video of President Bill Clinton’s Welfare Reform speech.

TANF brought several dramatic changes in how welfare operated. Under the old AFDC program, states set the level of welfare benefits that they would pay to the poor, and the federal government guaranteed it would chip in some of the money as well. The federal government’s welfare spending would rise or fall depending on the number of poor people, and on how each state set its own welfare contribution.

Under TANF, however, the federal government gives a fixed amount of money to each state. The state can then use the money for almost any program with an antipoverty component: for example, the state might use the money to give cash to poor families, or to reduce teenage pregnancy, or even to raise the high school graduation rate. However, the federal government imposed two key requirements. First, if states are to keep receiving the TANF grants, they must impose work requirements so that most of those receiving TANF benefits are working (or attending school). Second, no one can receive TANF benefits with federal money for more than a total of five years over his or her lifetime. The old AFDC program had no such work requirements or time limits.

TANF attempts to avoid the poverty trap by requiring that welfare recipients work and by limiting the length of time they can receive benefits. In its first few years, the program was quite successful. The number of families receiving payments in 1995, the last year of AFDC, was 4.8 million. By 2012, according to the Congressional Research Service, the average number of families receiving payments under TANF was 1.8 million—a decline of more than half.

TANF benefits to poor families vary considerably across states. For example, again according to the Congressional Research Service, in 2011 the highest monthly payment in Alaska to a single mother with two children was $923, while in Mississippi the highest monthly payment to that family was $170. These payments reflect differences in states’ cost of living. Total spending on TANF was approximately $16.6 billion in 1997. As of 2012, spending was at $12 billion, an almost 28% decrease, split about evenly between the federal and state governments. When you take into account the effects of inflation, the decline is even greater. Moreover, there seemed little evidence that poor families were suffering a reduced standard of living as a result of TANF—although, on the other side, there was not much evidence that poor families had greatly improved their total levels of income, either.

Questions & Answers

what is balance of payment
Tih Reply
I don't know
Somkenechukwu
balance of payment is the sum total of a country receipt for her exports and the total payments made for her imports.
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money is everything
Pranav
a regulatory object between producer and consumer of monetary system
Vipul
money is anything generally accepted for the payment of goods and services and for the settlement of debt
Angel
a regulatory object of good and services between producer and consumer ( all these comes under monetary system)
Vipul
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what is demand
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Osanday
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SHERO
flexibility of demand in terms of price , income and tax ratio .
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Causes of economic growth
pierre Reply
What is elasticity of demand
pierre
What are the causes of economic growth
pierre
economic growth, establishment of industry, encourage of investor's, farm productivities, creation of institutions, construction of good road etc
Oyewale
elasticity of demand can be said to be the responsiveness of demand to a change in prices
fateemah
impact of collusion in the economy referring to inefficiencies illustrated by means of graph
nondumiso Reply
The Factor price will determine the choice of techniques to produce.Expantiate
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Institution involved in money market
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Economic is the study of scarcity
Kolade
Economics is the study of a lot of things. It is split up into two areas of study, Microeconomics and Macroeconomics. Microeconomics is the study of an individual's choices in the economy and Macroeconomics is the study of the economy as a whole.
The
Economics is a science that studies human scarcity
Agnes
What is Equilibrium price?
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Equilibrium is the market clearing price. The point at which quantity demanded equals quantity supplied. The point at which the supply and demand curves intersect.
The
Equilibrium price*
The
Refers to the study of how producers use limited resources to satisfy human unlimited wants
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Source:  OpenStax, Principles of economics. OpenStax CNX. Sep 19, 2014 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11613/1.11
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