Wash. State Welfare Rolls Hit Record Low

Nov 19, 2013

The number of families on cash assistance in Washington has hit an all-time low following a spike in welfare enrollment less than three years ago.

Republicans in the Washington Senate say the downward trend is a sign reform efforts have worked, but advocates for poor families disagree.

Enrollment in Washington’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF program, experienced a recessionary peak in January of 2011 at 70,000. Now, nearly three years later, enrollment has dropped by 30,000 to a record low.

Many changes to the program have been implemented between then and now, including a strict enforcement of a five-year cap on welfare benefits.

Senate Budget Chair Andy Hill, R-Redmond, says the smaller caseload is evidence of a more efficient state government. But Robin Zukoski with Columbia Legal Services says just because the numbers are down doesn’t mean families have moved from welfare to work.

“The drop in the TANF caseload is explained by changes in program policies that cut people off, not by success,” Zukoski said.

Hill emphasizes the drop in welfare cases will save Washington more than $500 million through the current two-year budget.