States Where Welfare Supports the Fewest Poor Families

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5. Maryland
> TANF-to-poverty ratio: 38.9 for every 100 poor families
> Median household income: $80,776 (the highest)
> Max. income for eligibility (family of 3): $810 per month (22nd lowest)
> Max. monthly benefit: $648 (6th highest)

In Maryland, 39 in every 100 poor families receive TANF benefits, the fifth highest welfare recipiency ratio nationwide. States with higher TANF-to-poverty ratios tend to have policies that reduce the barriers for welfare eligibility. While a majority of states disqualify those with assets above a certain total value from receiving welfare — ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 — Maryland is one of eight states with no asset limit. States with greater access to welfare also tend to have more generous benefits, and in Maryland the maximum benefit for a single-parent family of three is $648 a month — the sixth highest of any state.

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4. New York
> TANF-to-poverty ratio: 42.2 for every 100 poor families
> Median household income: $64,894 (14th highest)
> Max. income for eligibility (family of 3): $879 per month (21st highest)
> Max. monthly benefit: $789 (3rd highest)

While nationwide 23 in every 100 poor families receive TANF benefits, 42 in every 100 poor families do in New York, the fourth highest welfare recipiency ratio in the country. States with the highest TANF-to-poverty ratios tend to also have more generous welfare benefits. In New York, the maximum monthly benefit for a single-parent family of three is $789, far greater than the $454 national average and the third highest of any state and the fifth highest when adjusted for New York State’s high cost of living.

And while a majority of states offer TANF benefits for a federally-set maximum of 60 months, states can either extend this limit with state funds or impose a shorter limit. New York is one of only two states in which eligible individuals can continue to receive benefits after 60 months.

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3. Minnesota
> TANF-to-poverty ratio: 47.1 for every 100 poor families
> Median household income: $68,388 (12th highest)
> Max. income for eligibility (family of 3): $2,243 per month (the highest)
> Max. monthly benefit: $532 (15th highest)

In Minnesota, 47 in every 100 poor families receive TANF benefits, the highest welfare recipiency ratio of any state other than Vermont and California. States with higher TANF-to-poverty ratios tend to have less restrictive welfare policies. While nationwide the average single-parent family of three can only earn up to $881 a month and still be eligible for TANF, in Minnesota the maximum monthly income for initial eligibility is $2,243, the highest of any state.

In addition to income, most states determine eligibility for public benefit programs according to the total value of assets in one’s possession. In Minnesota, residents can own up to $10,000 in assets and still be eligible for welfare, tied with Delaware as the highest asset limit of any state with some limit in place.

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2. Vermont
> TANF-to-poverty ratio: 54.6 for every 100 poor families
> Median household income: $57,513 (24th lowest)
> Max. income for eligibility (family of 3): $1,103 per month (12th highest)
> Max. monthly benefit: $640 (7th highest)

For every 100 poor families in Vermont, 55 receive TANF benefits — more than twice the national ratio of 23 in every 100 poor families receiving TANF and the second highest of any state. Two factors contribute to Vermont’s high TANF-to-poverty ratio. In Vermont, a single-parent family of three can earn up to $1,103 a month and still be eligible for TANF benefits, greater than the national average income limit of $881 and the 12th highest of any state. Additionally, individuals can own up to $9,000 in assets, the third highest asset limit.

States with less restrictive welfare policies also tend to have more generous benefits. In Vermont, the maximum monthly benefit for a single-parent family of three is $640, more than the $454 national average and the seventh highest of any state.

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1. California
> TANF-to-poverty ratio: 65.3 for every 100 poor families
> Median household income: $71,805 (8th highest)
> Max. income for eligibility (family of 3): $1,431 per month (6th highest)
> Max. monthly benefit: $714 (4th highest)

In California, there are 65 families receiving TANF benefits for every 100 poor families — by far the highest ratio of any state and nearly triple the national ratio of 23 in every 100. One factor contributing to the state’s high welfare recipiency is the high income cap for TANF recipients of $1,431 for a single-parent family of three, the sixth highest of any state. Nationwide the maximum is $881.

According to the nonprofit Urban Institute, states with a greater proportion of Democrats in government tend to have more generous and less restrictive TANF policies. Democrats occupy one of the largest shares of House and Senate seats in California compared to any state.

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