YORK - July 17 - Only a mere one-third of the drop in the welfare caseload can
be attributed to families successfully earning their way off welfare and out of
poverty, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data released
While the number of families receiving welfare benefits shrunk by approximately
2.2 million between 1995 and 1999, there was a simultaneous 1.4 million increase
in the number of impoverished families eligible for, yet not receiving, welfare
“This discredits all we have been told about welfare reform,” said
Lisa Maatz, vice president of NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, “What’s
been deemed a success is simply an inability to get assistance to those who desperately
The data reflect a massive decline in the participation rate -- the percentage
of families who are eligible for welfare that actually receive benefits. Since
welfare reform was enacted, the participation rate has plummeted from 84% in 1995
to 52% in 1999.
“Instead of praising welfare reform as a magic elixir for poverty,”
said Maatz, “we need to find out how and why welfare reform has placed a
new barrier between people in poverty and the help promised them by the government.”
Maatz suggested possible reasons why eligible families would not access the
welfare program include confusing bureaucratic processes and less meaningful benefits.
The data was included in the annual report “Indicators of Welfare Dependence,”
submitted to Congress June 3. The full report is available at <http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/indicators02/index.htm>.
For more than thirty years, NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund has used
the power of the law to define and defend women’s rights. Working in Congress,
the courts and the media, NOW Legal Defense acts strategically to secure equality
for women across the country.
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Legal Defense and Education Fund” or as “NOW Legal Defense”
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