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Here's how President Trump has it wrong on welfare

President Donald Trump Thursday repeated his pledge to boost job prospects and wages for American workers, and then went a step further by pledging to reduce dependence on government assistance for families on poverty.

"We have a lot of positive things happening, you're going to see it bursting out. You're going to be seeing it very soon," he told Republican congressional leaders at a Philadelphia GOP retreat. "We want to get our people off of welfare and back to work. So important. It's out of control. It's out of control.

But Trump's pledge ignores the steady decline participation in the government's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), widely known as welfare, over the last two decades.

Over the last 20 years, the national TANF average monthly caseload has fallen by almost two-thirds — from 4.4 million families in 1996 to 1.6 million families in 2014, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Since the 1996 welfare reform law created TANF, the number of families who get benefits has fallen from 68 out of every 100 with children in poverty to just 23.


Meanwhile, the number of families with children in poverty has risen, the group said. After hitting a low of 5.1 million in 2000, that number has risen to more than 7.1 million.

The amount of cash assistance available to families has also declined in almost every state, according to Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

TANF was created during the Clinton administration as part of a broad welfare reform law that replaced the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program. The new reform law gave states fixed grants in exchange for greater flexibility in how they could use the funds.

The new program also put a time limit on how long families could receive cash benefits and tied assistance to employment or other work-related activities.

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