Welfare reform in 1996 ended more than 60 years of guaranteed cash assistance to struggling families and turned responsibility for much of the social safety net over to states. The historic shifts raised many questions: How would states perform the devolved role? How would families fare under “work-first” programs? And what would happen to families once they stopped receiving assistance? Urban’s intensive research project, Assessing the New Federalism, tracked more than 40,000 families across the country, profiled state agencies’ capacities and challenges, and created a database of evolving state welfare rules. This vital information filled the vacuum created when the federal government cut back on welfare monitoring and offered a comprehensive history of welfare reform’s effects on families. One early finding revealed the critical role of food stamps in the new safety net, leading to lasting changes in enrollment policies to ensure families receive the benefits to which they are entitled.
The End of “Welfare as We Know It”