Issues To Consider in Assessing Proposals for Reform

HRD-87-51BR: Published: Feb 19, 1987. Publicly Released: Mar 23, 1987.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed information on: (1) major welfare system design issues; and (2) the sources and income levels of families receiving Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) benefits.

GAO found that: (1) researchers generally evaluated the welfare system by determining whether benefits lifted recipients to the poverty line, but there were problems in determining welfare family income; (2) variations within welfare programs caused recipients in similar circumstances to receive different benefit amounts; (3) service integration could reduce complexity and improve recipient access to programs, eliminate needless bureaucracy, and reduce administrative costs; and (4) although some program funding created incentives for states to shift benefit costs to the federal government, funding arrangements often led to an inequitable distribution of federal funds. GAO also found that: (1) the system had features that reduced incentives for recipients to work; (2) some state work programs had encouraging results, but the long-term prospects of the programs remained uncertain; and (3) concerns about welfare's impact on family stability stemmed largely from AFDC, since most states elected not to provide AFDC to two-parent families when the principal wage earner was unemployed.

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