Performance Improvement 2004. Welfare reform in miami: implementation, effects, and experiences of poor families and neighborhoods


This report focuses on the implementation of welfare reform in Miami-Dade County between 1996 and 2002. Florida’s welfare reform went beyond federal law by imposing a relatively short, two- or three-year time limit on benefit receipt and by cutting off all cash assistance when adults failed to comply with work requirements or other rules. However, to encourage work, Florida’s reform also allowed welfare recipients to keep more of their earnings without losing welfare eligibility. Far more families were cut off welfare because of noncompliance with work rules than because of time limits. Miami-Dade’s welfare rolls fell sharply, but how much of the decline was due to welfare reform is unclear. Between 1993 and 2002, Miami-Dade’s welfare caseload dropped by 75 percent as families both left welfare at a faster rate and came onto the rolls more slowly. A review of county welfare records found that these trends began well before 1996 and continued unabated thereafter, making it difficult to discern whether welfare reform had any effect. Welfare reform appears to have led to an increase in employment among welfare recipients. A sample of nearly 600 women who received welfare shortly before the implementation of welfare reform was interviewed in 1998 and again in 2001. Most reported that they had exited welfare, started working, and increased their income. In general, the women earned low wages. Nevertheless, the women tended to be better off financially than when they were on welfare, particularly if they took advantage of the Earned Income Credit. Neighborhood conditions remained stable or improved. Both countywide and in   the poorest neighborhoods, there were substantial declines in the teen birthrate, infant deaths, child abuse and neglect, and violent crime.

PIC ID: 8103
Agency Sponsor: ASPE-OHSP, Office of Human Services Policy
Federal Contact: Lower- Basch, Elizabeth, 202-690-6808
Performer: MDRC, New York, NY

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