Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Brookings Institution: Ron Haskins- 'The 15-Year Anniversary of Welfare Reform'

Source:Brookings Institution- Fellow Ron Haskins, talking about Welfare to Work.

"Ron Haskins: The welfare reform legislation began with heated partisan debate but both parties eventually came together to craft significant and lasting reform. However, many single mothers still struggles with multiple pressures. More:Brookings Institution." 

From Brookings

The 1996 Welfare to Work Law (or TANF which stands for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) is definitely Welfare reform. It took a welfare System that was designed to support unemployed parents without the skills to take care of themselves and their families, basically by taking care of them and not expecting much if anything from them in return. 

People on Welfare were left in poverty by government but with a few more dollars at taxpayers expense. Let them live off taxpayers who go to work everyday and reformed it into a system that empowered as well as expected these low-skilled folks to finish and further their education, so they can get themselves the skills that they need to get a good enough job, that can support themselves and their families. As well as provide additional assistance for child care, education, transportation, so they can go to school and look for work, To go along with the public assistance that they were already receiving. 

And the results of TANF are very good: something like a million people left the Welfare rolls to get on payrolls within the first five years of this program. And then we had 9/11 followed by a recession of 2002-03 and of course the Great Recession 5-6 years later in 2008. But the economy had already started slowing in 2007. So of course this affected our Welfare system, because when the economy is slower. 

Employers aren't going to hire as much because they don't have as much demand. Especially people who are on Welfare and perhaps entering the workforce for the first time in their lives or have very limited work experience. 

Welfare to Work, worked (no pun intended) because it was exactly that: instead of leaving people on Welfare at home with their kids living in public housing in rough neighborhoods, sending their kids to bad schools, it empowered them to go back to school, finish high school, and then go to community college. And provide them with child care so someone can look after their kids, while they are going back to school and looking for work. And then helped them with Job Placement so they could get help finding jobs. As well as being temporary, giving people incentive to get themselves off of the Welfare rolls and to the workforce. 

Welfare to Work is a much different approach from what we were doing before in the 1930s with the New Deal and 1960s with the Great Society. Back then the approach was, that these people basically have nothing and if we help them get by, then we are helping them and by that we are doing what we can for them. Perhaps not realizing that they were helping them at the expense of people who work for a living. Including low-income people who decided that they were going to work for a living, even struggle instead of going on Welfare Insurance. 

I would go farther in Welfare reform - assistance for people with health care issues, physical and mental, so once they go back to the workforce, they'll be able to stay there making it illegal for parents (fathers and mothers) to abandoned their kids. If they can bring lives into the world, then they should raise them as well. But I wouldn't send people to jail for abandoning their kids, but take money out of their paychecks. And give that money to the parent who's raising the kid and give the other parent an opportunity to get back in their kids lives. 

And then I would take the TANF off of the Federal and state budgets all together and give its own revenue source. And then turn it into a semi-private, non-profit community service designed to move people on TANF out of poverty. And let each state have their own Welfare system that would have to meet basic Federal standards. But each state TANF Program would be independent of government. 

Welfare to Work I believed has worked (again, no pun intended) because of how it was designed, to move people on Welfare to the workforce with a job good enough to support themselves and their families and is something that we should build off as a country. Not try to go back to what we were doing in that past, allowing people to stay on Welfare indefinitely and having their kids suffer from it.

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