Among the changes pushed through by Gingrich and his conservative caucus as part of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, was the replacement of the Aid to Families With Dependent Children program, which had been in place since 1935, with something called TANF: Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. The new program put a five-year limit on cash benefits for needy recipients, imposed tighter limits on who could receive food stamps (most immigrants became ineligible), and most importantly, required welfare recipients to get a job within two years of receiving benefits.
Ironically, Gingrich, a key champion of the work requirement, now claims that poor children don’t see anyone around them working, when by Gingrich’s own design, those on welfare, after the 1996 reforms, are required to work.
Meanwhile, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Gingrich and the Republicans’ crowning achievement also increased Americans’ reliance on food stamps. By restricting the cash assistance available to families, TANF indirectly pushed more working families to rely on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs — also known as “food stamps” — to fill in the gap.
So despite his zeal to push “personal responsibility” and to force people off welfare, Gingrich, like Dole, may have inadvertently become a Republican godfather of food stamp growth.
Or to put it another way: Gingrich just might have been the “food stamp Speaker of the House.”
If it weren’t for food stamps, my family would starve. Even with food stamps we run out of food and go at least a week, if not more, without many of the staple foods, such as milk, cereal, bread, etc. Even today, with exactly two weeks before we get next month’s food stamps, we have just enough left that we can get the kids one more gallon of milk, a box of cereal, and a loaf of bread. After that, the scrounging of the kitchen begins.
The entire TANF program is bullshit! Our family receives cash assistance for only two of our members, even though we are a family of six. Four of us don’t qualify for various reasons, but because of this, our family of six is considered a family size of only two, making our total income limit to qualify to be that of a two person home. This created many issues for our family while my husband was still on unemployment, because they deemed his $1,200/month to be sufficient for our entire family.
The system is incredibly flawed, and getting assistance isn’t as easy as most people think. It is a very involved process which includes collecting numerous amounts of proof for income, rent, utilities, citizenship, and anything else one can think of. They take your photo—mugshot style—as well as index finger and thumb prints, to prevent multiple state services. There is also a necessity for persistence, as most of the workers either don’t care, or they are so over booked with clients, they can’t get to you at a reasonable time.
The expectations are incredibly unrealistic as well. They expect sometimes extreme participation that some can’t perform. This is especially a problem, because they treat the clients, as a whole, to be unintelligent, irresponsible, and infant like. It’s an offensive and depressing feeling that almost makes the aid not worth it.
To add one more thing, the time limit for TANF is no longer 60 months, but has been reduced to 40 months. This is nearly half of the amount of time people use to have, and yet the requirements of participation have increased, with decreases in grant amount.