In 1996 the Personal Responsibility and WorkOpportunity Reconciliation Act was signed intolaw, and the nation waited to see if welfarereform would truly "end welfare as we know it."Block grant funding and administrative devolutiongave the states a chance to move beyondpilot programs and prove that they could transitionpeople off welfare more efficiently and effectivelythan the federal government. As a result,caseloads have dropped by more than half.
Congress is currently debating the reauthorizationof PRWORA, and there are a variety of perspectiveson the direction welfare reform shouldnow take. It is useful to look at the policy decisionsstates have made over the past seven years and comparethe results. This paper emphasizes the positivepolicy choices made by states regarding welfarereform implementation--choices that encouragepersonal responsibility and self-sufficiency.
Strong structural reforms in a state's welfaresystem--including time limits, sanctions, and narrowdefinitions of work activity--lay the foundationfor successful reorganization. Idaho, Ohio,Wisconsin, and Wyoming combined those reformswith positive quantitative outcomes andreceived the highest grade of A. California andNew York, the states with the largest welfare caseloads,will struggle to maintain their C grades inthe coming years since they lack programs thatencourage self-sufficency. Vermont received thelowest of the failing grades, including the lowestgrade on implementation of structural reformsrequired for a successful state welfare program.
Strained state budgets, a fluctuating economy,and new "pet programs" packed into welfare reauthorizationwill all change the face of welfare overthe next several years. This study offers analysis ofstate welfare reform implementation in the presentand can serve as a baseline for tracking welfarereauthorization program changes in the future.
Table 1: Overall Grades
|State||Overall Score||Letter Grade|