what happens to Welfare-to-Work when there's no work?

13 years ago, Clinton ended "Welfare as we know it" with a re-invention of the welfare system that forced those on the dole to be in school or get a job in order to keep getting assistance. Statistically and anecdotally, the "new welfare" was a success - case loads dropped and many who had been out of work for years got high on the pride of clocking in 9 to 5 (or at least that's what happened to the two women who came to work at my office in the late 90's).

But even with the hullabaloo of Welfare-to-Work's success, some wondered - just because the case numbers are dwindling, does that mean all those being kicked off welfare are necessarily succeeding themselves? The fact that, while welfare checks leveled off, other types of aid started to inch up suggested that the burden of taking care of the poor was just shifting to other governmental agencies.

Now, with a recession in full swing, wonks and activists are asking how - or if - a welfare-to-work scheme will work when there are no jobs?

Some of the stats - from a NYT article last week - are disturbing:

  • even with the recession hitting last year, Illinois still continued to drop its welfare rolls - by 8% (but national welfare rolls did start to inch upward in June of last year - ACF)
  • you'd guess that unemployment insurance would be helping out, but only 44% of unemployed collect unemployment checks
  • 1 out of every 9 families now gets food stamps

Nobody's suggesting that we go back to the bad-ol' welfare days, but it seems like there's a growing gap of unemployed and down-and-out families that are living without a safety net. Unless the economy turns around soon (and employment isn't expected to start rising until next year), there's going to be rude awakening about the country's poor any day now.


That's incredible about 1 in every 9 families getting food stamps.. but I can absolutely believe it. Times are so so tough, it shows everywhere!

ashleymichaelson38 | October 19, 2009 - 10:22pm