The Food Stamp Program and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program have responded very differently to the unprecedented challenges that the current recession has posed to the nation's safety net. The Food Stamp Program, a federal entitlement program, has responded quickly to rising need: nationally, caseloads have increased by 4.6 million households since the beginning of the downturn. TANF, a fixed block grant provided directly to the states, has lagged behind: caseloads have increased by just 10 percent. For both programs, the recession has highlighted areas needing improvement to strengthen the safety net for this and future recessions.
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