About 43,000 families in Washington state received welfare in October, which is a 41 percent reduction since 2011. About 73,000 families were on the welfare rolls at that time.
This dramatic reduction is a result of Gov. Chris Gregoire’s welfare reforms adopted in 2010. State officials estimate the reduction will save more than $600 million between 2011 and 2015.
Overall, it’s a positive trend. The welfare system was bloated and too easily abused.
The changes put in place by the governor made welfare payments smaller and benefit extensions more difficult. In addition, anti-fraud safeguards were approved by the Legislature.
The number of families on the welfare rolls has not been this low since 1990.
Some see the dramatic reduction in welfare, and the 23-year low, as a lack of compassion.
“Were they successful at saving a bunch of money? Absolutely,” said Nick Federici, a lobbyist in Olympia for a number of social service organizations. “So maybe it’s a success for fiscal policy. It’s sure not a success for humanitarian policy.”
No doubt these changes do make it far more difficult for some families. However, it is not clear the reduction in welfare is crippling families economically since the poverty rate has remained steady in this state.
Welfare should be a safety net, not a way of life.
Yet, many — too many — have become dependent on government assistance. A system has been created that too often blindly tosses money at social problems, and some people have abused it.
The reforms in Washington state should have been put in place earlier.
That being said, we believe society has a duty to help those who can’t help themselves or who are in a temporary situation beyond their control. If these changes have left families suffering — through no fault of their own — every effort should be made to help.
In the wake of welfare changes, the numbers of state residents on food stamps and Medicaid have risen. The percentage of residents living below the federal poverty line has remained steady, although homeless shelters report they have gotten busier.
Medicaid and homeless shelters are part of the social safety net, so an increase should have been expected given the reduction in welfare benefits in the midst of an economic recession.
The reforms put in place seem to have done what was intended — get state assistance to those who truly need it and eliminate it for those who did not.