Welfare & Economic Security Issues

Welfare & Economic Security Issues

Poverty

Poverty

"Our nation, so richly endowed with natural resources
and with a capable and industrious population,
should be able to devise ways and means of insuring
to all our able-bodied men and women,
a fair day's pay for a fair day’s work."

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1937

Updated: Aug. 2, 2014

Index:


Study: Food Stamp Program Reduces Poverty

A study by the Department of Agriculture found that the food stamp program reduced the poverty rate by nearly 8 percent in 2009. The food stamp program serves more than 46 million people in the United States. Enrollment in the program grew significantly during and immediately following the recession, with a 45 percent increase from January 2009 to January 2012.

AAUW promotes the economic, social, and physical well-being of all persons. Essential to that well-being are an economy that provides equitable employment opportunities, reduction of poverty, a livable wage, quality affordable dependent care, paid family and medical leave, decent and affordable housing, quality affordable health care, and a clean and healthful environment. To achieve economic self-sufficiency for all women, AAUW advocates for strengthening programs, including welfare and career and technical education to improve postsecondary education access, career development, and earning potential.

- from AAUW's Washington Update for April 13, 2012.

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New Census Formula Finds More Americans in Poverty

The Census Bureau released this week a new, comprehensive poverty measure that found that 49.1 million Americans – 16 percent of the population – lived in poverty in 2010, which exceeds the 46.2 million Americans found to live in poverty by the official measure released in September. The new measure marked the culmination of a years-long effort to come up with a poverty measure that takes into account the amount of social services benefits provided to the needy, as well as their expenses for things such as medical care and payroll taxes. The increased level of poverty in the new figure was largely due to higher levels of poverty among senior citizens once out-of-pocket medical expenses were included. Conversely, neither the accumulated wealth of senior citizens nor their Medicare benefits are included in the official or supplemental measure, which some experts said skews the number of elderly who are counted as impoverished.

AAUW strongly encourages Congress to focus on job creation to alleviate the unemployment and poverty rates. This is a vital issue for all Americans, but AAUW believes this is particularly important to women, who more commonly face economic insecurity and wage discrimination.

- from AAUW's Washington Update for November 11, 2011.

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Women Gain Jobs, But More People in Extreme Poverty

Women have gained more jobs than men in the United States over the last three months, a positive trend after months of an economic recovery that largely benefitted men. Women gained 66,000 of the 80,000 jobs gained in October and gained 136,000 jobs in August and September compared to men’s 126,000, according to new data from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Overall since the recession, men have gained back 30 percent of the jobs they lost, and women have gained back 17 percent.

In other economic news, the number of people living in neighborhoods of extreme poverty grew by a third over the past decade, according to a new report by the Brookings Institution. More than 2 million additional people now live in extreme poverty, defined as areas where at least 40 percent of the population lives below the federal poverty line. More than 10 percent of America’s poor now live in such neighborhoods compared to 9.1 percent at the beginning of the decade.

AAUW strongly encourages Congress to focus on job creation to alleviate the unemployment and poverty rates. This is a vital issue for all Americans, but AAUW believes this is particularly important to women, who more commonly face economic insecurity and wage discrimination.

- from AAUW's Washington Update for November 4, 2011.

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Welfare Reform Turns 15

On August 22, 1996, President Clinton signed into law a new program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), to replace the former Aid for Dependent Children (AFDC), also known as welfare. The purpose of TANF was to reduce long-term dependency on welfare programs by instituting work requirements and setting a lifetime limit of 60 months on families receiving assistance. Though TANF enrollment has decreased since 1996, the number of families kept out of deep poverty has decreased. Several of AAUW’s coalition partners are commemorating the 15th anniversary this week by blogging about the successes and failures of the TANF program, and Legal Momentum has released a new report on the vanishing safety net.

AAUW continues its work to ensure individuals receive the education and training they need even while on TANF. Welfare programs should be flexible to allow the highest level of education possible, because credentials and degrees are more likely to lead to self-sufficiency and help ensure that women are not locked into low-wage jobs.

- from AAUW's Washington Update for August 26, 2011.

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Administration, Congressional Democrats Clash Over Medicaid

Democratic leaders of Congress voiced their disagreement with the Obama administration over the administration’s position regarding federal Medicaid law. The administration’s Justice Department holds that Medicaid beneficiaries and health-care providers cannot sue state officials to challenge Medicaid cuts. The Democratic leaders filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Supreme Court that contends that the administration’s position undermines Medicaid effectiveness and conflicts with precedent.

The brief relates to the Supreme Court case Douglas v. Independent Living Center of Southern California, in which plaintiffs argue that California’s cuts to Medicaid payment rates make it increasingly difficult for Medicaid providers to provide services and Medicaid recipients to find doctors. The legal foundation for the case centers on the supremacy clause of the Constitution, which makes federal law the “supreme law of the land.” The argument is that California violated federal law by threatening access to medical care.

AAUW has not taken a position on this particular case; however, AAUW believes that Medicaid is a crucial element of the social safety net. Americans, especially women, rely heavily on the protections it offers and the services it provides. AAUW will continue to monitor cuts to Medicaid and their impact on women.

- from AAUW's Washington Update for August 12, 2011.

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US Poverty Rate Jumps

The United States has the largest number of people living in poverty, 43.56 million, in the 51 years since this information has been tracked, according to the U.S. Census poverty data for 2009, released Sept. 16. Other statistics also show deepening poverty in 2009:

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Welfare Job Rule Changes Affect Women with Disabilities

Advocates say the 60 percent drop in New York State welfare rolls since 1997 is due to a burdensome process for securing and maintaining benefits that has discouraged applicants. Disabled women who rely on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families are particularly at risk of losing or not qualifying for benefits because of problems meeting the work requirements,which changed in 1996. For example, hospitalization for disabled women can mean missed appointments with social workers, closed cases, and lost benefits.

AAUW is committed to supporting economic self-sufficiency for all women and advocates strengthening programs, including welfare and career and technical education, to improve postsecondary education access, career development and earning potential.

- from AAUW's Washington Update for September 10, 2010.

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Welfare Amendment Blocked in Senate

On Tuesday, Senate Republicans and four Democrats blocked an amendment, proposed by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), to extend Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) emergency funds through March 31, 2011. The amendment would have provided $1.3 billion for the emergency welfare program, as well as an additional $1.3 billion to create 500,000 summer jobs for young people and to protect another 100,000 for struggling families. Due to concerns over the cost, the amendment only received 55 votes, five short of the necessary supermajority.

AAUW's 2009-2011 Public Policy Program affirms AAUW's commitment to supporting economic self-sufficiency for all women and advocates "strengthening programs, including welfare and programs like TANF, to improve postsecondary education access, career development and earning potential."

- from AAUW's Washington Update for March 12, 2010.

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New Definition for Welfare

On Tuesday, the Federal government announced that a new supplemental measure of poverty will be released this fall that will alter the original definition and threshold of 'poverty' in the US. For the first time, the threshold will be based on the costs of food, shelter, utilities, and clothing for a family of only one parent and two children. In addition, while tax credits will be included in income estimates, taxes, out-of-pocket medical expenses and work expenses, including child care, will qualify as deductibles.

AAUW's 2009-2011 Public Policy Program affirms AAUW's commitment to supporting economic self-sufficiency for all women and advocates "strengthening programs, including welfare, to improve postsecondary education access, career development and earning potential.

- from AAUW's Washington Update for March 5, 2010.

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TANF Caseloads Increase in Recession

A report issued last year by Legal Momentum, the Center for Community Change, Jobs with Justice, and the Institute for Policy Studies asks Congress for $16.4 billion a year in order to provide Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) with the resources and money needed to expand its accessibility to more people who are in need of assistance. New data released from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) shows the number of people receiving TANF has increased by only 12 percent since the beginning of the recession, though not accurately reflecting the number of families in need. The HHS data suggests measures need to be taken in order to make TANF more accessible.

AAUW's 2009-2011 Public Policy Program affirms AAUW's commitment to supporting economic self-sufficiency for all women and advocates "strengthening programs, including welfare [such as TANF] and vocational education, to improve postsecondary education access, career development and earning potential."

- from AAUW's Washington Update for February 5, 2010.

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