Skip to comments.Florida's welfare rate is lowest In nation (Lower rates, tougher rules cited)
Posted on 09/19/2007 6:58:05 AM PDT by Between the Lines
Florida had the nation's lowest rate of households on welfare last year, according to figures recently released by the U.S. Census.
Just 1.3 percent of Florida households reported receiving welfare payments in the 2006 American Community Survey, a yearly demographic portrait of the nation set to replace the once-a-decade Census long form in 2010.
Welfare experts such as Ron Haskins, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, aren't surprised to find Florida ranked so low.
There are a number of reasons for it, they say. Florida has had higher job growth, tougher welfare eligibility rules and lower welfare payments than many states. And it lies in the South, where tradition -- and legislation -- more often attaches a greater stigma to welfare than other regions do.
"The South has always been more conservative than the rest of the country, so they're less encouraging to people about welfare ... especially as compared to the New England states," said Haskins, author of "Work Over Welfare: The Inside Story of the 1996 Welfare Reform."
"The Southern states also tend to have the lower benefits [and] the lower the benefits, the easier to earn your way off welfare."
Florida has ranked low in the category for years. The survey lists it 51st among the states and the District of Columbia. In addition to Florida, there were six other Southern states rounding out the eight with the nation's lowest welfare participation rates: Virginia, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Georgia. Wisconsin was the only non-Southern state. In all those states, less than 2 percent of households reported receiving welfare benefits in the survey.
Alaska had the highest rate of households receiving public cash assistance - 6.3 percent - followed by Maine; Washington, D.C.; Oklahoma; and Hawaii.
"Alaska and Hawaii have benefits that are off the scale, because cost of living there is so high," Haskins said. "D.C. and Maine have probably among the lowest-income populations in the country. Oklahoma's kind of surprising."
A U.S. Department of Health & Human Services survey of 2002 welfare benefits for a family of three lists Alaska and Hawaii with the highest monthly payments nationwide: $923 and $712, respectively. Alabama offered the lowest monthly benefit at $164.
Florida's monthly benefit of $303 ranked 43rd in the nation. That is still the maximum benefit today for a family of three, according to Don Winstead, deputy secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families, which determines eligibility for welfare payments, also known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
Winstead thinks the lower payments have helped maintain the state's standing among those with the lowest rates for welfare recipients.
"That absolutely plays a role. Depending on the audience, I say Florida has among the lowest benefits in the country, or among the highest in the Southeast," Winstead said.
"Historically, Florida is a state with low benefits. Largely [it's the state] just not wanting to set benefits too high to encourage people to be on welfare rather than working. It's basically a legislative decision."
The federal welfare reform law, passed by Congress in 1996, made changes intended to make welfare more of a temporary benefit. The revamped program required states to set a five-year limit on the time families with an adult could receive cash benefits, with some exceptions. Florida set a stricter limit: four years.
The federal law said beneficiaries had to start working no later than two years after they first receive welfare benefits. Florida requires beneficiaries to start working right away.
Winstead said the tough standards of Florida's 1996 welfare plan, passed in anticipation of the broad federal reforms, require able-bodied adults to get jobs right away. Florida also will cut off all benefits, after 10 days' notice, if an adult in the household refuses to work without a good reason. The federal law allows a partial cut-off.
"The combination of a policy structure that rigorously enforces the requirement for work has resulted in a dramatic reduction in the welfare caseload," Winstead said.
"In 1996, there were over 200,000 families on welfare in Florida. There are less than 50,000 now."
There used to be a time in America - when the "New England Work Ethic" was something to be proud if...
Ya know if they paid $0/per month, no one would be on welfare. That’s my position.
LOL. The only one in the family that’s worth a damn hasn’t been President.
Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton, Bush anyone? We could go out 36 years with just Bush and Clinton presidencies.
Florida’s monthly benefit of $303 ranked 43rd in the nation.
We need to get to 50th. 43rd is an outrage!
There are not that many Clintons left.
1989 through 2024
Georgia has been tough with its welfare reform. I understand that California has a huge percentage of the nation’s welfare recipients.
So Californians may be pushing 2 for English soon.
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