Welfare Reform in Cleveland: Implementation, Effects, and Experiences of Poor Families and Neighborhoods
Brock, T., Coulton, C., London, A., Polit, D. Richburg-Hayes, L., Scott, E. & Verma, N.
The 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) ushered in profound changes in welfare policy, including a five-year time limit on federally funded cash assistance (known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF), stricter work requirements, and greater flexibility for states in designing and managing programs. The law’s supporters hoped that it would spark innovation and reduce welfare use; critics feared that it would lead to cuts in benefits and widespread suffering. Whether PRWORA’s reforms succeed or fail depends largely on what happens in big cities, where poverty and welfare receipt are most concentrated. This report — one of a series from MDRC’s Project on Devolution and Urban Change — examines how welfare reform unfolded in Ohio’s largest city and county: Cleveland, in Cuyahoga County. Ohio’s TANF program features one of the country’s shortest time limits (36 months) and has a strong emphasis on moving welfare recipients into employment. This study uses field research, surveys and interviews of current and former welfare recipients, state and county welfare and employment records, and indicators of social and economic trends to assess TANF’s implementation and effects. Because of the strong economy and ample funding for services in the late 1990s, it captures welfare reform in the best of times, while also focusing on the poorest families and neighborhoods.