Cash Assistance since Welfare Reform

The 1996 “welfare reform” law ended the individual entitlement to cash assistance under Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and replaced AFDC with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant. All states have continued to use a portion of these funds to provide cash assistance to some very low-income families; however, the number of families receiving assistance has fallen dramatically, to about one-third of the 1994 peak. Less than half of families who are eligible for cash assistance receive it. Many of the TANF requirements, including the work participation rate, the time limit on federal assistance, and most data reporting, are limited to families receiving cash assistance and do not apply to families receiving other benefits or services funded from the TANF block grant. 

To learn more, read this brief by Elizabeth Lower-Basch.