Welfare reform is generally described as a government's attempt to change the social welfare policy of the country. A main goal of these reforms is to reduce the number of individuals or families dependent on government assistance and to assist the recipients in their efforts to become self-sufficient. There is a common consensus that the initial welfare programs created in response to the economic conditions faced by the country during the Great Depression are actually counterproductive to the goals of welfare help. Many feel these outdated welfare programs not only propagate indigence but also fosters dependency on the government for financial assistance and services. Because welfare in the United States will never fully meet every need of every low income or underprivileged individual or family, reforms to the existing welfare programs are necessary.
In 1996, the Welfare Reform Act was passed into law with the promise by the leaders of the country to end welfare as it had existed since its inception. A new era of welfare benefits and provisions was on the horizon, and the Welfare Reform Act was the catalyst needed to begin these much needed changes. One of the reforms under this act was the Welfare-to-Work initiative, which required work in exchange for time limited financial assistance. Recipients of TANF, or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, were required to work at least 20 hours per week, and the reform statute listed 12 authorized activities accepted to meet this requirement. According to reports, within 3 years of the reforms enactment, millions of Americans had moved from being dependent on welfare to being self-sufficient. In addition, agencies reported a reduction in the number of social welfare cases.
The welfare reform agenda of 2003 was passed by Congress, and the 2003 reform's goals were built on the foundation of the 1996 welfare reform act. Essentially, the goals of 2003 were to provide assistance to individuals and families in achieving financial independence from the government. Protecting children and strengthening families were important aspects of this reform measure, and state and local governments were asked to assist these individuals and families in gaining this independent status. It is vital to the health and economy of the nation for individuals to have the ability to support themselves and meet the needs of their family without economic assistance from the government. These reforms were an effort to make a way for this to happen. Unfortunately, in 2004, the Welfare-to-Work program ended, but during the time this program was active millions of Americans lives were changed for the better.
The first welfare initiatives began over 60 years ago, and welfare has changed as the country has grown and the needs of individuals and families have become more varied and diverse. In response to these changes, the leaders of the country have made reforms and reauthorized existing welfare legislation. Realizing what does and does not work and determining what the overall goal of welfare should be has directed welfare reform efforts. The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program was reauthorized in 2005, and this social welfare program continues to help millions of struggling families. While Food Stamps, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income and TANF are still common social welfare services, Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) are also being offered to low-income families to help create financial stability. To be eligible, certain requirements must be met by the individual or family.
The heart of social welfare in the United States is to help families who need assistance meeting financial obligations and obtaining healthcare and education. Over time, it has become apparent that improvements can be made to the initial plans and goal of welfare. Welfare reform attempts to accomplish these improvements.