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Welfare in Texas Essay

Texas is the second largest state in the United States of America, occupying an area of 267,300 square miles which is approximately one- twelfth the size of the United States. It is also referred to as the Lone Star state, because of the single star present on its red, white and blue state flag (Stacy 808; Writer’s Program 3). It is also the second most densely inhabited state after the state of California, with an estimated population of 24. 3 million people as at July 1, 2008 according to the US Census Bureau (US Census Bureau).

One third of the Texas population constitutes the Latinos/ Hispanics while approximately 9% are immigrants who are also non- citizens. Generally, the state of Texas has a higher birth rate and an even higher teen birth rate compared to that of the nation as a whole. The poverty rates in Texas are higher in comparison to those for the United States; with the Latino Immigrant communities accounting for the highest Texan poverty rates (Capps et al 3).

For this reason, there are significant amounts of people in Texas who are in need of welfare and who therefore benefit from the state’s welfare program. In 1996, Congress sought to overhaul the welfare system of the United States by replacing welfare for work in an effort to help the poor families become self sufficient. This was accomplished under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act which set up the TANF block grant that replaced the AFDC (Centre for Public Policy Priorities 1).

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The state of Texas operates under a philosophy of minimal government. This essentially means that in terms of welfare, it limits the budget of the state to 1%. A study carried out in 1999 revealed that Texas had the lowest share of its state budget devoted to Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). AFDC is the predecessor to the Temporary Assistance for Needy families (TANF). As a result of this low level of funding, Texas had a relatively low requirement amount for maintenance of effort under the PRWORA.

Texas also has the highest number of uninsured children (23% as of 1999). It did not have a general relief program and as of the year 2000, their benefit level was the fifth lowest. It also ranked second lowest in terms of the number or children receiving welfare compared to the number of all poor children (Capps et al 3-5). TANF gave the states some leeway to come up with their own rules governing the programs of cash assistance (Centre for Public Policy Priorities 1). Texas became one of the first states to implement the welfare reform.

In 1995, it passed the House Bill 1863 (HB 1863), even before the passing of the PROWRA Act. To date, Texas remains one of the states with the lowest rates of coverage, the lowest benefit levels as well as the lowest program budgets for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) (Capps et al 2). Generally, there are three programs that the Texas welfare caters for in its state budget. Other than the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the other two programs are the Food Stamps Program and the Medicaid Program.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) The TANF is a federal-state program which is funded both by the state and the federal government. The TANF cash assistance disburses benefits on a monthly basis to very low income families depending on the eligibility standards of the different states. In Texas, a family has to prove to be needy in order for it to qualify for TANF As per the guidelines of the federal government. A single parent family of three has to have an earnings limit of $4,812 per annum.

Two parent families are eligible on the same criteria as the one parent family. The maximum benefit that a family of three can obtain for a month is $223 and for a year it amounts to $2,676. The earned income disregard for benefit calculation is $120. The lifetime time limit on benefit receipt is 60 months (National Center for Children in Poverty). Under the TANF program, the federal government gives each state a block grant for funding their operations. Generally and on the national level, 34. 8% of the TANF dollars are used as cash assistance, 19.1% goes into child care, 12. 7% goes into other work support & employment programs while the rest goes into transportation, systems and administration and other services.

Federal law provides that the TANF funds be used for the provision of assistance to needy families to enable children be taken care of within their own family setting. The funds will also be used to promote the creation of jobs to reduce dependency on the government, reduce incidence of pregnancy out of wedlock and encourage long lasting two parent families (Centre on Budget and Policy Priority).

In Texas, this fund is used to provide financial support for children as well as their parents and guardians. These monthly cash payments pay for necessities not catered for under the Medicaid program such as food, medical supplies and household equipment among others. The amount of TANF dollars paid to the family will depend on the family size as well as their level of income (Texas Health and Human Services Commission).

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