States Where Welfare Supports the Fewest Poor Families

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States Where the Most Poor Families Receive Welfare

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10. Colorado
> TANF-to-poverty ratio: 33.6 for every 100 poor families
> Median household income: $69,117 (11th highest)
> Max. income for eligibility (family of 3): $511 per month (10th lowest)
> Max. monthly benefit: $462 (23rd highest)

While nationwide the TANF-to-poverty ratio fell 19.0% nationwide over the past 10 years, it nearly tripled in Colorado. Welfare recipiency rose from 12 in every 100 poor families in 2009 to 34 in every 100 poor families today, the largest increase of any state over the period. The TANF-to-poverty ratio in Colorado is now the 10th highest of any state and is far higher than the national rate of 23 in every 100 poor families receiving TANF benefits.

Colorado is also one of only eight states that imposes no asset limit for welfare recipients. The state also has no job-seeking requirements, and it follows the federally set maximum benefits duration of 60 months.

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9. Oregon
> TANF-to-poverty ratio: 35.3 for every 100 poor families
> Median household income: $60,212 (20th highest)
> Max. income for eligibility (family of 3): $616 per month (16th lowest)
> Max. monthly benefit: $506 (17th highest)

For every 100 poor families in Oregon, 35 receive TANF benefits — the ninth highest TANF-to-poverty ratio of any state. Oregon has a strong history of labor rights and policies that protect workers, and the state has worked to increase the access to TANF even as many states enacted more restrictive policies. While nationwide the TANF-to-poverty ratio fell 19.0% over the past 10 years, in Oregon it rose 7.7% — the ninth largest increase of any state over the period.

Similarly, while the state’s poverty rate is roughly in line with the nation as a whole, 15.4% of residents receive SNAP benefits, more than the 11.7% national share and the fourth highest recipiency rate of any state.

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8. Delaware
> TANF-to-poverty ratio: 35.9 for every 100 poor families
> Median household income: $62,852 (17th highest)
> Max. income for eligibility (family of 3): $428 per month (8th lowest)
> Max. monthly benefit: $338 (17th lowest)

In Delaware, 36 in every 100 poor families receive TANF benefits, the eighth highest welfare recipiency ratio of any state. States with the highest TANF-to-poverty ratios tend to have policies that reduce barriers to welfare eligibility. In Delaware, for example, residents can own up to $10,000 in assets and still be eligible for TANF benefits, tied with Minnesota as the highest asset limit in the country.

TANF is administered as a federal block grant to allow states to allocate money to different programs as they see fit. Many states, however, use TANF funds for other purposes. On average, states spend just 52.2% of TANF funds on what the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities deems “core activities” — basic assistance, work activities, work supports, and child care. Delaware, however, spends 80.3% of its TANF funds on core activities, the third largest share of any state.

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7. Massachusetts
> TANF-to-poverty ratio: 37.9 for every 100 poor families
> Median household income: $77,385 (4th highest)
> Max. income for eligibility (family of 3): $818 per month (25th lowest)
> Max. monthly benefit: $618 (8th highest)

In Massachusetts, 38 in every 100 poor families receive TANF benefits, the seventh highest TANF-to-poverty ratio of any state and far higher than the national figure of 23 in every 100 poor families. States with the highest TANF-to-poverty ratios tend to also have more generous welfare benefits. In Massachusetts, the maximum monthly benefit for a single-parent family of three is $618, far greater than the $454 national average and the eighth highest of any state.

Similarly, federal law limits TANF assistance to a maximum duration of 60 months, but also allows states to extend this limit with state-funded programs, or shorten it. Massachusetts is one of only two states in which recipients can continue to receive benefits after 60 months.

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6. Hawaii
> TANF-to-poverty ratio: 38.0 for every 100 poor families
> Median household income: $77,765 (3rd highest)
> Max. income for eligibility (family of 3): $1,740 per month (2nd highest)
> Max. monthly benefit: $610 (10th highest)

In Hawaii, 38 in every 100 poor families receive TANF benefits, the sixth highest welfare recipiency ratio in the country and higher than the nationwide ratio of 23 in 100. States with the highest recipiency ratios tend to have policies that reduce barriers to welfare eligibility. In Hawaii, a single-parent family of three can earn up to $1,740 a month and still be eligible for welfare, the second highest income limit of any state and nearly twice the $881 national average. Hawaii is also one of eight states that do not have an asset value limit for welfare eligibility.

States with more Democratic lawmakers than Republicans tend to have more generous and less restrictive TANF policies. In Hawaii, Democrats occupy 92.1% of seats in the House and Senate, the largest share of any state.

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