Most former TANF recipients who find work are working at jobs that pay between $5.50 and $7.00 per hour. Median monthly earnings amount to $1,149, which is below the official poverty line for a family of three. Many former recipients lose income even if their cash earnings rise, because they lose benefits.
Work is scarce
A Government Accounting Office survey of the effects of welfare reform in seven states found that between 19% and 30% of families returned to welfare soon after leaving. In the same seven states, between 29% and 39% of the adults who left welfare had not found employment.
Housing crises are worsening
A national study found that one-fourth of former welfare recipients moved because they couldn’t pay their rent. In most states the median monthly fair market cost of housing for a family of three is considerably higher than the entire TANF grant. An Atlanta survey found that one-half of homeless families with children interviewed in shelters had lost TANF benefits in the previous 12 months.
Hunger is increasing
One-third of those who left TANF had to cut the size of or skip meals. In Illinois, 63% of employed former welfare recipients reported that there were times when they could not buy needed food. In 1997, among families who had left welfare, only 42% of those eligible for food stamps were receiving them. Over half a million legal immigrants remain ineligible for food stamps due to the 1996 welfare law.
Childcare is unavailable
Nearly 75% of employed former recipients in Chicago were working nights, weekends, or rotating shifts–times when it is nearly impossible to find child care. In California, 200,000 families are on waiting lists for subsidized childcare.
Health insurance is rare
Less than one-fourth of those moving from welfare to work are covered by health benefits.
Source: Women and Children in the Wake of Welfare ‘Reform’, Women of Color Resource Center (June 2000).