U.S. welfare rolls increase modestly

Jan. 26, 2010 at 9:49 AM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- U.S. welfare rolls grew 5 percent in 2009, although some states continue to see welfare enrollment shrinking, government data show.

In Florida, Ohio and Washington, welfare rolls increased last year, but in Texas, Indiana, and Rhode Island, the rolls continued to shrink, despite rising unemployment, USA Today reported Tuesday.

As millions of recipients returned to work after the 1996 overhaul of the welfare system put time limits on welfare checks, the fall back position for many has been unemployment benefits. While 4 million received welfare checks in 2009 – up from 3.8 million in 2008 -- the number of people receiving food stamps rose 18 percent, September to September to 37 million and 9.1 million received unemployment benefits, more than twice as many from the previous year.

While the federal government extended unemployment benefits, "making the (welfare) rolls decline got to be a badge of honor for states," said Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution, who helped re-write the welfare laws in 14 years ago.

Many simply decide, "the program's not worth it," said Stephanie Goodman of the Health and Human Services Commission in Texas.

The average monthly benefit in Texas for a welfare recipient is $68 per person, the newspaper said.

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