The number of American families in poverty increased by more than 400,000 to record levels from the official start of the recession in late 2007 to this spring, Census Bureau data reported by The Washington Post said. But those getting welfare checks rose only about 185,000.
State programs vary widely, and there is little connection between the condition of a state's economy and the number who have gone onto welfare.
When welfare was transformed in the mid-1990s from a federal entitlement into a state-run program of temporary assistance that emphasized work, it was asked how the system would respond if the economy fell into prolonged decline.
Now it is apparent that "despite extremely high levels of unemployment, that has not translated into welfare increases as much as many people expected," Douglas Besharov, a University of Maryland professor who has studied welfare for years, told the Post.
Congress is letting emergency funds run out Thursday.