Few things are as misunderstood and misrepresented as the United States social welfare program. While some believe it is a handout to those unwilling to work, others believe it is a hand-up to those most in need in American society. Whatever your beliefs, learning the facts about social welfare will give you a better understanding of these government programs and where your tax dollars are being spent.
The Great Depression of 1929 sent the United States into a economic tailspin. Unemployment rates reached as high as 25 percent and banks and businesses failed at alarming rates. President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed recovery legislation within days of taking office, which was meant to help the people of the United States during the economic crisis. This was the first time the government of America offered social welfare programs.
Social Security is a program instituted by President Roosevelt that became a permanent part of American government. Social Security is funded through paycheck deductions and provides a small monthly income for working people once they retire. With the life expectancy of Americans on the rise, there is concern that Social Security is no longer sustainable. While it has been debated in congress, there has yet to be a long-term solution for the problem.
There are different types of assistance offered to those in need. Different welfare programs have been established to provide people with health care, food stamps, unemployment, child care, housing assistance and cash aid.
In 2006, the number of Americans that fell below the official poverty line was 36.5 million. This equals a poverty rate of 12.3 percent.
TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) are grants provided by the federal government to individual states to fund welfare programs. To overcome reliance on welfare benefits, TANF grants require that all recipients find work within two years of receiving benefits. This includes single-parent households, who are required to work at least 30 hours a week to receive benefits. Two-parent households must work a total of 35 to 55 hours per week. Failure to comply to this standard results in a loss of TANF benefits. Lifetime benefits are reached after five years.
One half of all the money spent by the federal government in the first part of the 21st century was allocated to social welfare programs. This includes money for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other welfare plans. This is double the percentage of what was spent on welfare in the 1960s.
In 2008, 18 states cut back on welfare programs. Nationally, the number of people receiving cash aid from the government is near the lowest it has been in the last 40 years. These cutbacks occurred during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.