Expanding opportunity through asset building can help less-advantaged families by raising living standards and generating precautionary savings. Public and nonprofit communities that encourage opportunity should pursue policies that help low- and moderate-income families build up their human, physical, and financial assets. However, not all asset-building policies can or should be pursued. It is imperative that the government and philanthropic communities, with their limited means, find programs and policies that increase the welfare of low-income families, but are cost-effective.
The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 includes incentives for states to increase the amount of child support that is 'passed through' to families on welfare, rather than retained to offset welfare expenditures. Beginning October 1, 2008, the federal government will share in the costs of a $100 per month pass-through for families with one child and a $200 per month pass-through for families with two or more children. This brief discusses the potential benefits and costs to families, states, and the federal government if all states implemented a $100/$200 pass-through and disregard.
For immigrants, the passage of federal welfare reform meant much more than ending the entitlement to cash assistance. The law restricted noncitizen eligibility for a wide range of public programs, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), food stamps, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Medicaid, and it gave states broad new authority to set social welfare policy for immigrants.
The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, the nation's primary safety net program for families with children, is due for reauthorization this year. The Urban Institute held a roundtable of experts from federal and state governments, academia, and policy organizations to discuss the program's current status and effectiveness. Experts agreed that TANF's goals need to be better articulated and that many key features of the program, including funding, work requirements, and its place within the broader safety net, should be reexamined.
For all workers who are employed outside their home, getting to work is an obvious and important dimension of their employment. For those workers without easy access to transportation and/or long commutes, this logistic becomes increasingly important. As states are attempting to aggressively move welfare recipients into employment, transportation is being identified as one of the top barriers to employment. This paper provides a very brief summary of key background information on issues relevant to understanding the role of transportation in welfare reform. (Author abstract)
Testimony on the strengths and weakness of the federal housing voucher program. The testimony reviews the importance of the Housing Choice Voucher Program and the benefits it provides, and describes challenges facing the program. The author argues that the administration's proposal to convert the voucher program into a state block grant does nothing to address these challenges and indeed could make them harder to overcome. The author suggests three strategies that could strengthen the basic voucher program design, substantially improving outcomes for families.
This brief examines financial literacy and programs to improve financial knowledge and decisionmaking. After examining survey evidence on what people believe about personal finance, we review existing financial literacy programs and make suggestions for improving financial literacy. The comments of experts who participated in a December 2004 roundtable on financial literacy convened by the Urban Institute are also reflected here.(author abstract)
The recent, rapid decline in the welfare rolls has led many to question whether families on welfare today differ significantly from those on before the new policies were implemented. In this paper we use two rounds of the National Survey of America's Families (NSAF) to examine how families on welfare in 1999 differ from those receiving benefits in 1997 (a point just prior to when most states implemented their new Temporary Assistance for Needy Families [TANF] policies).