When welfare reform was enacted in 1996, creating the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant, a less-noticed provision was the greatly increased focus on collecting child support for custodial parents (almost always mothers) and their children.

Prior to TANF, over 50 percent of child support collections went to reimburse states for welfare payments they made to single female heads of households who were still on welfare under the old Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) Program.

But TANF expected able bodied single moms to work and required that they cooperate in identifying the father of their children, establishing paternity and seeking a court order for child support.

Gradually, the focus shifted to a “families first” philosophy, which dictated that child support payments collected from non-custodial fathers would go to working mothers rather than to reimburse state welfare agencies. The child support collected became, like the earned income tax credit, another significant wage supplement helping people leave welfare.

And the percentages of who got child support collections changed dramatically to over 90 percent going directly to working moms and their children. As described by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Child Support Enforcement:

We are proud to hold up the child support program as a government success story. Congress began the child support program in 1975 to reimburse benefits paid by the government’s welfare programs. Congress changed the program in 1996 as part of welfare reform laws to expand the role of technology and ensure children receive more of the support paid by their parents. In 1998, Congress began funding the child support program based on its performance. In fiscal year 2010, the program collected $27 billion, of which 94% was distributed to families.

According to state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, from July 2011 to June 2012, New York collected $1.85 billion in child support payments, with 95 percent going directly to  working custodial parents (almost all mothers of children with an absent father) who had either previously been on welfare or never on welfare.

Second only to the Earned Income Tax Credit, these dollars now represent the largest wage supplement to low income working households in New York, a true success story in the effort to reduce the TANF rolls and make work pay.

Tags:

You may also like

Study: EITC makes people healthier

Here’s another reason to celebrate New York’s Earned Income Tax Credit: It measurably improves the health and longevity of those who receive it. Read More

Welfare is back

New York City's welfare caseloads are expanding again—a deliberate and predictable outcome of Mayor Bill De Blasio's policies, as Manhattan Institute's Steve Eide points out in his new "Poverty and Progress in New York" report. Read More

Welfare caseloads poised to grow

New York State’s enacted budget and New York City’s proposed budget for fiscal 2015 both project that welfare cash assistance caseloads will decline in the year ahead. Since the city accounts for nearly two-thirds of the state caseload, those trends are closely related. Read More

NY ranks high in welfare benefits

A full package of basic welfare benefits in New York State is now worth $38,004 — seventh highest among those offered by the 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to The Work vs. Welfare Trade-Off, a study released today by the Cato Institute. Read More

Getting Food Stamps is a SNAP

The Food Stamp Program has changed its name to SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program -- an appropriate moniker, since in current economic conditions, states are making it a snap to qualify. Read More

The welfare-to-work equation

The Obama administration's offer to waive work requirements for recipients of Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) is being opposed by leading congressional Republicans, who have introduced legislation to overturn the action. While state governments generally welcome added flexibility in administering federal programs, there is a risk the new federal policy will be used in some states to undermine the work-first principle at the heart of the successful 1996 welfare reform. Read More

More welfare de-form

A bill pending in the state Senate would weaken a key underpinning of welfare reform -- the Work Experience Program, or WEP. This is a one-house measure for now, and it's sponsored by a member of the democratic minority, to boot. But many of Albany's worst ideas have been born as one-house minority bills, so this one bears watching. Read More

Subscribe

Sign up to receive updates about Empire Center research, news and events in your email.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Empire Center for Public Policy
30 South Pearl St.
Suite 1210
Albany, NY 12207

Phone: 518-434-3100

General Inquiries: Info@EmpireCenter.org

Press Inquiries: Press@EmpireCenter.org

About

The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.

Empire Center Logo Enjoying our work? Sign up for email alerts on our latest news and research.
Together, we can make New York a better place to live and work!