Those Left Behind: Enduring Challenges Facing Welfare Applicants
Enduring Challenges Facing Welfare Applicants
The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 shifted the focus of the nation’s primary welfare program for poor families with children from cash assistance to work-readiness services and employment supports. The explicit goals of the law were to reduce welfare dependency and increase employment among low-income parents, which presumably would result in improved family well-being.
This issue brief is based on a Chapin Hall study that tracked a representative sample of Milwaukee County parents who applied for assistance from Wisconsin’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, Wisconsin Works or W-2 between March and August 1999. It describes the barriers to employment they faced, their employment histories and earnings, their experiences with material hardships, and their involvement with the child welfare system.
The study found that more than 4 years after they sought help, most of these TANF applicants were no better off, and, in many cases, they were worse off than when they sought assistance, in part because such personal challenges as educational deficits, mental health issues and problems with drugs, alcohol, domestic violence, and parenting interfered with their ability to support their families.