States Where Welfare Supports the Fewest Poor Families

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States Where Welfare Supports the Most Poor Families

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10. Connecticut
> TANF-to-poverty ratio: 32 for every 100 poor families
> Median household income: $71,346 (5th highest)
> Maximum income for initial eligibility: $880 (17th highest)
> Maximum monthly benefit: $576 (12th highest)

For every 100 families with children living in poverty in Connecticut, about 32 receive cash welfare benefits, a considerably larger share than the 23 needy families per 100 nationwide. A family of three in the state can get as much as $576 a month in cash assistance, a higher amount than in the vast majority of states. While many states terminate all benefits if work requirements are not met, Connecticut’s policies are slightly more lenient, only reducing benefits by a percentage for first-time non-compliance.

While Connecticut is more generous and less restrictive in its TANF policies than most states, welfare payments assist a far smaller share of families in the state than 20 years ago. In 1996, 82 needy Connecticut families were covered for every 100.

9. Washington
> TANF-to-poverty ratio: 33 for every 100 poor families
> Median household income: $64,129 (10th highest)
> Maximum income for initial eligibility: $954 (15th highest)
> Maximum monthly benefit: $478 (20th highest)

Washington is far less restrictive than most states when it comes to qualifying for welfare assistance. A family of three can have a monthly income of up to $954 and still qualify for cash assistance. In neighboring Idaho, families cannot earn more than $648 and qualify.

The generosity and restrictiveness of a given state’s welfare program can be indicative of the opinions on the role of government in a given state. Suggesting a prevailing belief that government should be used to help those in need, Washington expanded Medicaid to cover more low income individuals. Similarly, like most states on this list, Washington supplements the federal block grant by covering the majority of all welfare spending under the TANF program. Some 57.8% of Washington’s $1.0 billion TANF budget is funded from state coffers, the sixth largest share of any state.

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8. Delaware
> TANF-to-poverty ratio: 33 for every 100 poor families
> Median household income: $61,255 (14th highest)
> Maximum income for initial eligibility: $428 (8th lowest)
> Maximum monthly benefit: $338 (18th lowest)

When TANF was enacted in 1996, 99 out of every 100 needy families in Delaware received cash assistance. The federal government has not adjusted the TANF grant for inflation since it was introduced. Partially due to the dwindling resources, the TANF-to-poverty ratio in Delaware has fallen to 33 poor families for every 100, still one of the highest shares of all states.

Despite providing a larger than typical share of needy families with cash assistance, only about 21.4% of Delaware’s $95.0 million total TANF spending goes towards cash payments. The majority — about 51.4% — of Delaware’s TANF budget is allocated to child care subsidies and programs. In comparison, only 16.9% of total TANF spending nationwide goes towards child care.

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7. Massachusetts
> TANF-to-poverty ratio: 39 for every 100 poor families
> Median household income: $70,628 (6th highest)
> Maximum income for initial eligibility: $723 (23rd lowest)
> Maximum monthly benefit: $633 (7th highest)

Massachusetts is one of three New England states with one of the nation’s most generous welfare programs. Besides New York, Massachusetts is the only state with no duration limits on welfare cash assistance. In most states, needy families become ineligible for TANF after 60 months. In addition, a family of three in Massachusetts can receive up to $633 a month, a higher ceiling than in all but six states.

While Massachusetts has one of the strongest TANF programs of any state, it is home to relatively little serious financial hardship. The typical household in the state earns $70,628 a year, about $15,000 more than the typical household nationwide, and the state’s 11.5% poverty rate is well below the 14.7% U.S. poverty rate.

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6. New York
> TANF-to-poverty ratio: 40 for every 100 poor families
> Median household income: $60,850 (15th highest)
> Maximum income for initial eligibility: $879 (18th highest)
> Maximum monthly benefit: $789 (2nd highest)

For every 100 needy families in New York state, 40 families receive cash welfare benefits, almost double the corresponding national ratio. The relatively large share is likely due in part to the program’s generosity. While most states have a 60 month lifetime limit on welfare benefits, New York is one of two states with no lifetime limit on cash benefits. Additionally, a New York family of three can receive as much as $789 in cash benefits a month, the most of any state other than Alaska.

While many states with less generous and more restrictive TANF policies tend to have relatively large African American populations, New York does not fit this pattern. Some 15.6% of the state’s population is black, versus 12.7% of people nationwide.