BUSINESS

Welfare, Weakened In Clinton Years, Now A Key Piece Largely Missing From Economic Safety Net

10/03/2010 08:44 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The nation's welfare system of cash assistance, for decades the core of help for mothers and children in financial distress, has become a shrunken piece of the U.S. social safety net.

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State by state, welfare programs are a patchwork, with little connection between the condition of a state's economy and the number of people who have gone onto welfare.

Taken together, this new portrait of welfare answers a central question that hovered over the impassioned debate of the mid-1990s, when Congress and the Clinton administration transformed welfare from a federal entitlement into a state-run program of temporary assistance that emphasized work. How would the reshaped welfare system respond, policymakers and advocates wondered then, if the economy plunged into long, serious trouble?

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