Welfare Rolls Continue to Shrink


Although the pace of the welfare exodus has slowed, more than a million families left the nation's cash-assistance program for the poor in 1999. The number of people that rely on monthly welfare checks from the government fell to 6.3 million in December from 7.5 million in January 1999, the Clinton administration announced Tuesday.

Led by declines in California and Illinois, 43 states saw their welfare caseloads drop last year. In California, more than 500,000 left welfare between January and December 1999. In Illinois, another 100,000 abandoned the rolls.

Caseloads climbed in seven states: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Kansas, Oregon, Tennessee and Texas.

In what has become an annual ritual, Clinton, with Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, trumpeted the latest welfare statistics at a White House ceremony marking the fourth anniversary of the signing of the 1996 welfare law.

Since August 22, 1996, the welfare rolls nationally have fallen by almost six million, or 49 percent. With only 23 out of every 1000 Americans now relying on the program, the welfare program has shrunk to its smallest size since 1965.

The Clinton administration also announced Tuesday that more adults who remain on the program are working than ever before. In 1999, one out of three parents on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, as the nation's cash-assistance welfare program is called, was working, up from 23 percent in 1998.

In addition, most states moved enough welfare recipients into work last year to avoid penalties from the federal government. Every year, the states are required to meet what is called a "work participation" rate, meaning they must move an increasingly larger percentage of parents into some type of work. In 1999, the states needed to place 35 percent of adults in work for at least 25 hours a week. All of them met the mark.

Also on Tuesday, the non-profit business association, the Welfare-to-Work Partnership, announced that some 20,000 businesses had hired 1.1 million off the welfare rolls since May 1997.


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