February 2, 2009

Welfare numbers down, illogically

Two of the states with the highest unemployment rates, Michigan and Rhode Island, were among 18 states that cut welfare rolls as the recession dug in its heels.

In spite of mass layoffs, Michigan cut welfare rolls 13 percent in 2008. Rhode Island, the only other state with unemployment above 9 percent in October, cut 17 percent, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

The recession officially began in December 2007. Last year, among the 12 states with the most accelerated rates of unemployment, eight cut the number of people receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Journal said.

Welfare rolls grew in 20 states last year and remained flat in 12.

But, the shrinking numbers in some states flies in the face of logic. Hard times would predict rising numbers receiving welfare.

David Hansell, who runs the welfare program for New York, said there was typically a one- to two-year lag between an economic downturn and an uptick in the welfare rolls, but others have said the tougher system puts hurdles in the way of those in need.

This is evidence of a strikingly unresponsive system, said Mark Greenberg, co-director of a poverty institute at the Georgetown University.