Alabama fails welfare test

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Destiny Hosmer

Staff Writer

Cassie Gibbs

News Editor

Alabama has scored an ‘F’ on the 2015 Welfare Reform Report Card, ranking 45th out of the 50 states.

The report card, created by the Heartland Institute of Chicago, graded each state on their welfare reform policies based on five major categories. The Heartland Institute is an independent national nonprofit research organization.

The report card’s five categories are work requirements, cash diversion, service integration, time limits and sanctions.

Alabama scored an ‘A’ in work requirements, an ‘F’ in cash diversion, a ‘C’ in service integration, a ‘D’ in time limits and an ‘F’ in sanctions, leading to an overall grade of ‘F.’

States earning ‘F’s’ on the report card included Missouri, Georgia, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Alabama.

According to the report card, in 2013 Alabama received $82,880,292 in TANF funds block granted by the federal government.

The average amount of benefits per recipient is $4,360.

In 2014, there were 38,044 TANF recipients and in 2013 there were only 5,352 welfare employees.

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 ended the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program and created the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program.

William Davis, the director of Pike County’s department of human resources, said that the program was created to help families with financial issues.

“It (TANF) is meant to enhance families’ well-being and move to being self-sufficient.”

TANF benefits are intended to supplement a family’s earned and unearned income and can be used to purchase clothing, food, medication and pay for housing and utility costs.

Following the creation of TANF, each state was then free to experiment with different welfare reform policies in order to assist recipients with becoming financially stable.

Eventual financial stability is the goal of welfare reform.

Pike County DHR houses four major welfare programs that provide TANF benefits.

The Family Assistance program “provides temporary cash assistance to low-income families,” a DHR pamphlet said.

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act created a five year limit on receiving Family Assistance benefits.

In Pike County, there are currently 139 active cases in this program.

In 2014, Governor Robert Bentley signed several bills that made the requirements for Alabama welfare recipients stricter.

Among those bills included the requirement that TANF applicants must apply for three jobs before they are able to receive benefits.

According to Davis, there is also a federal regulation that requires 50 percent of the people involved with the Family Assistance programs must have a job or be in a job training program.

“The county is currently at 54 percent,” Davis said.

Food Assistance is also provided to families through human resources.

This program “provides assistance to supplement the food budgets of low income individuals and families,” the pamphlet said.

In February 2015, the county issued around $950,000 in food stamps to approximately 3,500 households.

DHR also provides assistance with child support within the county, collecting and distributing around $200,000 in child support in February 2015.

The Pike County Department of Human Resources is also available for information and referral services.

“If someone comes in here, we’re going to try to help them,” Davis said. “We can contact the appropriate agency needed, provide the appropriate information or even help people register to vote.”

Alabama TANF recipients must apply at their local human resource department and meet a list of technical and financial requirements.

For more information about Pike County’s welfare program, contact the department of human resources at 334-807-6120.

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