Letter to the Editor: Access to welfare programs

Dear Editor:

There seems to be a vexatious disconnect between the beliefs of the Republican Party and the needs of marginalized and disenfranchised communities. Specifically, their views on state welfare programs.

In 1996, the Republican Congress enacted The Welfare Reform Act. The objective was to eliminate as many individuals as possible off the welfare rolls and transition them into the workforce.

The policy introduced which outlined the process is TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). TANF is a designated welfare to work program. In order to qualify for aid, applicants must meet the following requirements: must be a U.S citizen and child(ren) must be a citizen or have eligible alien status, must be seeking employment, child(ren) must be 18 or under with the exception of those individuals who are enrolled in school full-time with an expected graduation date before the age of 20, applicant must have a child under the age of 18 living in the home, and if the applicant is pregnant it must be within one month before due date.

Under this program, families are eligible to receive aid up to five consecutive years. In addition, a family must meet a certain annual income, including assets, in order to qualify for aid.

However, state requirements create barriers for many families that would otherwise qualify. For example, a family may have a combined income that is over the federal poverty line but may struggle with basic necessities. This family may have to make a choice between paying for shelter and going without food.

This family could benefit from the SNAP program, however, income criteria may disqualify this family from receiving aid. In addition, families’ whose assets exceed program income guidelines may be deemed ineligible. For example, a family may not have many assets, but possess a car worth $9,600 and that would be over the vehicle asset limit requirement, hence creating a barrier to eligibility.

Although the Republican platform pushes against this type of assistance, welfare programs are needed to improve the lives of those in need. Welfare programs can be of great benefit for those who are in need, but the requirements for eligibility must be realistic and make the aid accessible, and not create unintended barriers. 

Sandra Barajas, Mayra Guerra, Drena Heard, Miyesha Hodo and Rocio Juarez

The authors of this letter are Master of Social Work candidates at Cal State Long Beach.