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Welfare Reform at 20: Where We Were in 1996

August 15, 2016

Next Monday, August 22, 2016, marks the 20th anniversary of welfare reform — when Republicans in Congress passed landmark legislation that reshaped one of the nation’s biggest anti-poverty programs.

This week, in advance of the anniversary, the Ways and Means Committee is taking a look back so we can apply the same successful lessons to help more low-income Americans escape poverty and climb the economic ladder.

Before welfare reform:

The Aid to Families with Dependent Children or AFDC served as the nation’s major cash welfare program. Established in 1935, as part of the New Deal, AFDC was intended to provide financial support for single mothers and children living in poverty.

By the 1990’s:

Despite tens of billions of dollars being spent each year, AFDC had failed to set families on a path out of poverty. Instead, just the opposite, the program discouraged single mothers from finding work, perpetuating the cycle of welfare dependence. Understanding the best way out of poverty is a job, Republicans in Congress focused on policies that would help move single parents from welfare to work.

In 1996:

Congress passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) to eliminate the ineffective AFDC program and replace it with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. As the bill name suggests, the reforms were intended to hold states accountable for quickly helping low-income Americans find and keep a job, earn their own success, and provide for their families.


How has TANF helped families living in poverty? Check back tomorrow to learn more.

CLICK HERE to learn more.