Reform was successful—in a sense: Today just 3 million people receive cash assistance from the government, down from 13 million in 1995. But reform came at a price. When people could not find jobs in the allowed amount of time, they lost all government help. That thrust them into deep poverty of the type that the safety net would have once prevented. Today, about 1.5 million households, including about three million children, are living on $2.00 per person or less per day, according to the researchers Kathryn Edin and H. Luke Shaefer.
Again, nearly everyone agrees that “the safety net” should be a way out of poverty, not a perpetuator of poverty. It’s refreshing to learn of examples of organizations like Big Step (featured in the article) that are creatively tackling this.