This report provides a comprehensive summary of what was been learned about state policies regarding welfare time limits, their implementation, the effects of time limits on employment and welfare receipt, and the circumstances of families whose welfare cases have been closed because they reached a time limit. Few features of the 1990s welfare reforms have generated as much attention and controversy as time limits on welfare benefit receipt. Time limits first emerged in state welfare reform programs operated under federal waivers before 1996, and then they became a central feature of federal welfare policy in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA). The report is designed to serve as a resource for Congress as it considers reauthorization of PRWORA. Three activities were funded for this project: (1) A survey of state welfare administrators to obtain information on states’ time-limit policies and experiences to date. (2) Site visits to five states to examine the implementation of time limits; and (3) a synthesis of research on time limits conducted to date. All three study components found that (a) states have developed widely varying approaches to time limits when responding to the broad flexibility permitted under the federal welfare law; (b) all states provide exemptions or extensions from their time limits for certain groups of families, but the policies differ dramatically from state to state; and (c) nationally, about 231,000 families have reached either the federal time limit or a shorter state time limit. At least 93,000 families had their cases closed at a time limit, and approximately 38,000 had their benefits reduced. Very few families had reached the federal 60-month time limit, and it was too early to draw any broad conclusions about how states will respond as more families reach the limits.

PIC ID: 7621
Agency Sponsor: ACF-OPRE, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation
Federal Contact: Dubinsky, Michael, 202-401-3442
Performer: Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation, New York, NY

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