welfare reform first took hold a few years ago many states jumped at the chance to implement its practices. The states hoped that by adopting and implementing welfare reform they could improve the financial situation their current system was in as well as improve the lives of those who were welfare participants. Urban areas faced different challenges than rural areas when it came to welfare reform and those challenges sometimes caused the participants to fall through the cracks of the system and be lost. There were considerations such as shortages in affordable housing, transportation issues and other aspects of welfare reform that were specific to city life. One major metropolitan area that has implemented welfare reform policies is Philadelphia. Philadelphia, PA. Philadelphia has adopted and implemented many welfare reform policies that are supposed to benefit the recipients of the systems. The reforms that have been implemented since 1997 in Philadelphia outline several mandates that must be followed or the recipient faces the loss not only of their benefits but the eventual loss of their family's benefits as well. The reforms have varying stages of development and various deadlines for compliance with the end result being a five-year deadline to get it together. At the end of the five-year lifetime limit those families are expected to have jobs, educations and be self sufficient. Last year marked the first five-year mandate for the reforms that were implemented in 1997. This study will attempt to determine whether or not those reforms have been effective and what effect they have had on the poverty stricken families in the Philadelphia area.
Statement of the problem
Definition of terms
Future use of results
Urban areas have some specific problems when it comes to welfare reform. For many in the urban areas the shortage of affordable housing, childcare needs, and transportation are just a few of the issues facing those who live in impoverished areas of metropolitan cities. The city of Philadelphia area struggles with many of the typical inner city issues including those mentioned above. People on welfare receive an array of services including food stamps, cash payments and reduced or free housing. In addition they receive medical care at no cost or a reduced cost. All of these benefits make it difficult for the family to give up welfare. With the recent mandates that say the family has five years to get situated and give up their welfare many of the poverty stricken families in the Philadelphia area are feeling the pressure. Families that have special needs are able to apply for exemption but for those without special needs there are many new mandates in place including:
five year lifetime family cap on benefits
The mandate to work community service if not working part time
The mandate to work for the welfare system
To assist in the welfare to work program the system is set to continues certain benefits after the recipient begins a job. Some of those perks include:
Continued day care
Funds for transportation
Funds for car repair up to 400 dollars
Funds for training so one can get a job
Continued medical benefits until the employment benefits begin
These benefits are supposed to ease the transition from welfare to work for the thousands of families currently dependant on the system. The ability to go to work and receive continued support sounds good on paper however, the very number of welfare recipients in the system have bogged it down so that many of those who should receive benefits while transitioning are being shuffled around instead of helped. (Reform, 1999) The number of welfare households in the Philadelphia area tops 35,000 which creates potential problems when the issue of reform is addressed. When the reform plan was first introduced many of Philadelphia's council people believed it would burden an already overburdened city with poverty stricken families.
One report, "Imminent Dangers of Welfare Reform in Pennsylvania," says there is "little doubt that March 1999 will bring homelessness and joblessness," and added that little information is available about how serious the problem will be. "
As soon as this report was released other council members argued that the report was an attempt to delay badly needed welfare reform implementation and derail the entire reform attempt. The two sides continue to argue while the poverty stricken families wait in the balance. The welfare reform mandates did take affect and they are currently in place.
The Philadelphia reform act is Act 35 and it was designed to get families off welfare and to work at jobs. "The provisions of Ridge's welfare-to-work program, known as Act 35, will require anyone receiving Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) to have a job working a minimum of 20 hours a week if they have received benefits for the last two years. After a review and recommendation for compliance, anyone in violation can have their benefits stopped. "
The welfare system as it is reformed will make many changes to the way families prepare for life. The decisions they make will have to include the knowledge that their benefits and the benefits of their entire family has a five-year life span before it stops. This is a life time limit, therefore once it is used it cannot be reactivated.
The concerns about the current reform mandates are that there will not be enough jobs available even if the welfare recipients are willing to go to work, and that the pay will not be enough to support their family once they lose their transitional benefits.
The Ortiz report noted that there are not enough jobs available, even if every recipient is able and willing to work. Many businesses have relocated to suburban areas and support services are needed to help TANF recipients get to those jobs. "Over the last 25 years, Philadelphia has lost around 250,000 jobs, while the suburbs have seen a gain of over 750,000 jobs -- a net swing of more than one million jobs," the report said. If as few as 5% of TANF families become homeless as a result of loss of welfare benefits, approximately 3,000 families will need emergency shelter at a cost to the city of about $24 million, the report says. That would almost double the current number of families seeking shelter over the course of a year and would be five times as many families in city shelters."
The ripple effect that the welfare reform mandates have had on the impoverished families of Philadelphia has not yet been fully resolved. The thousands of families facing cut off form their benefits are scrambling to comply while the clock continues to click. It is important to establish how effective the mandates are and if they are setting an entire system up for failure by demanding things be met that are not possible. Welfare reform has received support from the Philadelphia public but it remains to be see what type of burden it places on those who have to comply.
HISTORY OF WELFARE REFORM (Welfare, 1997) For many years the poverty stricken families in the Philadelphia area turned to welfare for their needs. The lack of housing and jobs and training caused them to become dependant on the system. As children grew up watching the adults model life on the welfare roles the children then applied as soon as they became adults without even trying to establish an independent welfare free life. The multigenerational welfare families were stuck in a vicious circle that seemed difficult to tackle. The welfare reform mandates and guidelines were implemented to cap the number of years a family could remain dependant on the system. (Now, 1997)
Welfare reform in the area of Philadelphia began when the entire nation also began to look into it. About a decade ago the idea of welfare reform came to light as many Americans became vocal about the dissatisfaction with the system. The Philadelphia area had over 35,000 families on the welfare roles and there were many families that had been on the system for multiple generations. The welfare reform began to take shape nationwide in the mid 1990s and began to see fruition at that time. (Now, 1997)
Under the new plan, welfare recipients will be limited to five years of benefits in their lifetime. They have to get a job working at least 20 hours a week or face losing cash assistance and medical coverage two years from now. And recipients will have to sign, "Agreements of Mutual Responsibility (AMR), a contract outlining how they plan to achieve self-sufficiency as a condition of receiving assistance. "
Councilman Ridge, who designed the program mandates believed that those who really need the benefits will be happy to comply with the mandates to get off welfare and those who really do not need to be on it will get off when it is no longer a free ride. The program mandates training for the welfare to work participants…