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New Welfare Law: The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996

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Publication Date: November 1996

Publisher(s): Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Series: 96-687

Topic: Social conditions (Public welfare and social services)


This report briefly summarizes provisions of The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, signed into law August 22, 1996 (Public Law 104-193). This Act dramatically reshapes cash and food welfare programs, affecting Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), Food Stamps, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), child support enforcement, child care, child nutrition, and Title XX social services. It also imposes a citizenship requirement for many benefits.

The Act replaces the AFDC program with capped block grants to states for a program called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). It imposes a general 5-year time limit on duration of family cash welfare, requires work in order to receive benefits after 2 years, establishes a new work requirement for Food Stamps, cuts food stamp benefits, expands states’ authority over food stamp operations, restricts SSI eligibility for disabled children, ends benefits for most aliens, expands child care funding, strengthens child support enforcement, and repeals the program of Job Opportunities and Basic Skills Training (JOBS) for AFDC recipients. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated that the Act will reduce federal spending by net totals of $3 billion in FY1997 and by $54.1 billion over the FY1997-FY2002 period. Restrictions on benefits for noncitizens account for 44% of total savings, and revisions in Food Stamp law for 43%. The major increased cost of the Act is for welfare-related child care. CBO projects that replacement of AFDC and JOBS by TANF will increase direct federal outlays for “family support payments” by $3.7 billion over the first 6 years, largely because of increased child care funding, but that family support outlays will fall below levels of current law in the 6th year.