Greg Kaufmann, Nation - The Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program was created by what is commonly referred to as “welfare reform” in 1996. It replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children as the program through which some low-income families are able to receive cash assistance.
.... Most people in poverty do not receive cash assistance. In 1996: for every 100 families with children in poverty, there were 68 families who accessed cash assistance. In 2011: for every 100 families with children in poverty, 27 accessed cash assistance.
-- Over the last 16 years, the number of people receiving TANF cash assistance has declined by 60 percent, even as poverty and deep poverty—people living below half the poverty line—have increased.
... The cash benefit is less than 50 percent of the poverty line in every state—so less than $9000 for a family of three—and less than 30 percent of the poverty line in most states, or less than $5500 annually for a family of three.
... The TANF block grant has been frozen since 1996 so its value in real terms has declined by over 30 percent.
... The federal government rewards or penalizes states based on whether TANF recipients are doing “countable activities,” with no assessment as to whether those activities lead to employment entry, job retention, advancement, or poverty reduction. So sweeping a county garage might be an approved activity, while post-secondary education leading to a wage that supports a family may not be permitted at all, or only for a limited number of recipients.
-- A weak TANF has contributed to a rise in deep poverty: the number of people living in deep poverty has risen from 12.6 million in 2000, to 20.4 million people today. This includes over 15 million women and children.