Public assistance programs describe the various forms of assistance that range from financial to health care programs which aid people in meeting their needs. The public assistance programs are usually based on the income and special needs of underprivileged persons in the society such as the widows, single parents, disabled, aged and the sick (Anderson 56). The public assistance programs are structured in a way that the beneficiaries must meet the laid down criteria based on their income levels, age and personal disabilities so as to be eligible for the assistance.
History of Public Assistance
Public assistance in the United States dates back to the colonial period when the Elizabethan Poor Law was enacted in the year 1601. The current form of public assistance in the United States was established in 1935 as a response to the deep and unrelenting unemployment levels due to the Great Depression. President Roosevelt in 1935 introduce the welfare program when he signed the Social Security Act that provided assistance to individuals with low income, divorced mothers, elderly and single mothers in supporting their children. In 1996, public assistance reforms were implemented that required the welfare program to be carried out in all states. Before the enactment of the Social Security Act, the federal state and private organizations were tasked with the provision of relief to the poor (Barber).
However, during the Great Depression period, the federal state and private organizations were unable to continue with the provision of aid to the increasing number of individuals under financial assistance. As a result, the Social Security Act paved way for the commencement of the federal government efforts in helping people in meeting their basic requirements. The public assistance was enacted during this time as there was a huge influx of men who left their families to fight in the world war. Some men also had left their families as a result of the unfavourable economic conditions caused by the deep and persistent Great Depression. The Great Depression led to massive unemployment levels in the United States while the women were unable to secure any form of employment opportunity to support their children (Anderson 60).
Notion between poor women not working instead of gaining employment
The poor women are obliged to seek for employment opportunities so as to support their families in obtaining their daily needs. When the poor and single parents depend on the government public assistance, they cannot see any reason to seek for employment when their basic needs are met by the government. The poor women should seek for employment opportunities as public assistance makes poverty in the United States to appear more attractive. As a result, the poor women are usually less motivated to seek for employment so as to support their children (Anderson 63).
According to Rangarajan, individuals become dependent on the public assistance when they are provided with weekly pay checks. This dependence becomes repetitive as the individuals cannot put efforts in seeking for employment or applying for any form of work. In the former years, women have lacked equal employment opportunities due to restrictions from entering certain fields that were reserved for men and wage discrimination in some fields. There has been a common perception among the people that women should be mere mothers, while the men are the sole main childcare providers. As a result, several single women are not assertive in gaining employment so as to support themselves and their children.
Timothy and Laurie argue that the employment levels for the United States for single families and single households range from 65 percent to 75 percent. Even though these rates seem to be high, the employment levels in the U.S. have declined for the single parents especially the mothers due to the recent economic recession and the resulting aftermath. For instance, the proportion of single mothers employed during the year 2010 decreased from an estimated 70 percent to 65 percent in 2011. At the same time the percentage of single mothers who were in full time employment places decreased from 50 percent in 2010 to an estimated 43 percent in 2011. As a result, it can be concluded that there are several single parents in the U.S. who are unemployed and this has made them to be dependent on the government public assistance.
Experts’ analysis of the Public Assistance for single families
According to social policy experts, the Public Assistance programs have exhausted the spirit of the single parenthood families and at the same time created huge obstacles in improving their economic lives. This is because the Public Assistance program makes the welfare recipients to be contended with their way of life through assistance and this has “subsidized idleness.” The social policy experts also argue that the welfare program places unwarranted burden on the active workers who are taxed so that the welfare dependents are provided with their basic needs. This has incessantly created aggressive arguments in the society with regards to the hardworking taxpayers. The taxpayers are often compelled by the federal government to shield the financial liability of the poor people who are not making efforts to better their lives (Timothy and Laurie).
Some social policy experts support the Public Assistance for single families because the American Constitution supports general welfare to the poor people, elderly and the disabled people. According to Timothy and Laurie, the government must protect the individuals’ welfare by providing the poor and disabled people with the resources so that they can develop both politically and economically. In addition, experts have attempted to convince people why public assistance is a fundamental constitution value and why it should remain as a key government obligation. It is further argued that the American government is constitutionally required to undertake any measures that will ensure that the people live secure, healthy and comfortable lives.
Political stance on Public Assistance
There have been numerous political opinions on whether the public assistance programs are effectively managing the poverty problem in the United States or the program is helping the dependents to live by the system. Accordingly, several political analysts have come up with several arguments with regards to the Public assistance programs and their effect on the present society. During the negotiation of the welfare reforms, the U.S. Congress was concerned with the issue of whether the public assistance program should continue to be entitled to the poor. Presently, the debate still continues with ethical issues on whether the poor people should receive any form of assistance exclusively on the virtue of poverty. The political stance on the issue at the present moment is that the society is held accountable for the welfare of the poverty stricken individuals in the community (Reese 112).
The Welfare Reform Act was enacted in 1996 by President Bill Clinton after several politicians openly opposed the existing public assistance programs that were draining the American economy. As a result, the Welfare Reform Act transformed the welfare programs that were considered as an open-ended right forming finite programs that offered short term cash assistance. The Welfare Reform Act also was supposed to help people to in securing jobs and ensure that the public assistance dependants can provide for their families in the long run. The political stance on public assistance also prompted the Congress to pass the Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act that encouraged individuals to become independent after a given duration under the assistance program (Barber).
Changes to Public Assistance
There have been several changes to the public assistance programs such as the introduction of efficient programs and encouragement towards self dependence. New programs have also been developed such as the Temporal Assistance of Needy Families to provide assistance to single parents. The public assistance program encourages the States to ensure the dependents are involved in some form of employment activity during the assistance and it also limits the welfare to a maximum of five years (Reese 115). Consequently, the bill requires that the States must meet some standards in ensuring that the public aid recipients are motivated to work and become independent of the welfare. After these public assistance reforms were enacted, several American left the public assistance programs, the employment levels increased and the dire child poverty levels were minimised. Studies have revealed that the reforms led to an increase in the income of the affected families by almost 40 percent (Barber). In conclusion, these political reforms of the public have been widely applauded and referred as the unquestionable success of the federal government over the years.
Anderson, Martin. Welfare: The Political Economy of Welfare Reform in the United States. Stanford, Calif: Hoover Institute, 2009. Print.
Barber, Sotirios. Welfare and the Constitution. Constitution and Princeton University, 22 July 2010. Web. 8 April 2013.
Rangarajan, Anu. Public Assistance Use Among Two-Parent Families: An Analysis of TANF and Food Stamp Program Eligibility and Participation. Aspe Research Brief, 22 Jan. 2009. Web. 8 April 2013.
Reese, Ellen. Backlash against Welfare Mothers: Past and Present. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005. Print.
Timothy, Casey, and Laurie Maldonado. Worst-Off: Single-Parent Families in the United States. Women’s Voice Women’s Vote. 14 March 2013. Web. 8 April 2013. < http://www.wvwvaf.org/news/worst-off-single-parent-families-in-the-united-states/ >.