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Aligning Policies and Procedures In Benefit Programs: An Overview of the Opportunities and Challenges Under Current Federal Laws and Regulations

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Over the past 15 years, the welfare system has undergone a major transformation. Instead of a limited set of programs focused primarily on providing benefits to low-income non-working families, states and the federal government now operate a more comprehensive set of programs and services designed to promote employment and to support low-wage workers. These changes cannot be explained solely by the 1996 welfare law or changes to the cash assistance programs. Expansions in the Earned Income Tax Credit and Medicaid, the creation of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), increased resources for child care for low-wage working families, and retooling the federal food stamp program to serve working families better are all a part of this shift.