Temporary Assistance for Needy Families: Fewer Eligible Families Have Received Cash Assistance Since the 1990s, and the Recession’s Impact on Caseloads Varies by State


U.S. Government Accountability Office

In an effort to help Congress understand the dramatic decrease in the number of families receiving welfare since the 1996 creation of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, a new government report states the 3.14 million-family decline is primarily due to lower participation rates among the eligible families.

A slight decline in the number of families eligible for cash assistance – from around 5.69 million families each month in 1995 to around 5.27 million families per month in 2005 – is a small part of the change. But a much larger factor is a sharp decline in participation, which the report suggests is a result of TANF policies that include “mandatory work activities, state diversion strategies, time limits and sanctions for noncompliance with work and other program requirements.”

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