The passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-193) marked the beginning of a new era for welfare in America. By placing a time limit on the receipt of cash assistance, this legislation effectively transformed the entitlement aspect of welfare to one that encourages self-sufficiency through transitional assistance. Because the time limit concept fundamentally changes the relationship between the government and the underprivileged, it is critical that policy makers are fully aware of its implications. This report seeks to follow the emergence of time-limits as a reform policy to the implementation and evaluation processes in order to determine if America's poor families are benefiting from the new welfare reform policies.
As the new policies are implemented and begin to take effect, however, important questions still remain. This report considers the existing research regarding time limit policies and describes some state demonstration projects that included time limits as part of their own versions of welfare reform. Upon examination of the 1996 legislation, this report finds that many serious issues have been left unresolved as states attempt to design, implement, and evaluate their new welfare systems in an unfamiliar environment.
While it is still too early to know the full effects of the new time limit policies, some early lessons have emerged. In order to serve a diverse welfare caseload, states realize that targeting the various groups of recipients with different services will help more individuals become self-sufficient. In addition, continuous tracking and evaluation are critical to ensuring that the new policies are in fact enabling poor families and children to escape poverty.
-- Author's foreword.