Final Synthesis Report of Findings from ASPE "Leavers" Grants. Chapter IV: Program Participation


One goal of welfare reform was to reduce families dependence on cash assistance and make receipt of assistance temporary. Participation in other government programs, particularly food stamps and Medicaid, can provide support for families as they make the transition from welfare to work.

For some recipients who exit TANF, the transition is not permanent. A substantial group of former recipients return to the cash assistance roles. While past research has shown that there were families cycling on and off cash assistance before welfare reform, returning to cash assistance takes on increased urgency in light of the lifetime limits on benefit receipt under TANF. The majority of leavers in the areas and cohorts examined here had not reached federal or state time limits during the study time period, but returns to TANF mean further depleting their limited benefit time.

As families leave cash assistance and strive toward self-sufficiency, some government benefits typically remain available to aid in the transition off cash assistance. These include food stamps, Medicaid, and child care assistance. Families who have sufficiently low incomes and meet other program requirements continue to be eligible for these benefits. This section examines returns to TANF and then addresses the extent to which former TANF/AFDC recipients continue to receive other government benefits over time.