Census Report says Recession Taking Toll on Families, More Receiving Assistance


A new report from the U.S. Census Bureau says that the number of American families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding has increased by more than 20 percent since 2006.

The findings from the report state that in 2009 the rate of families in the United States participating in the federal welfare program surged from 3.8 percent in 2006 to 4.8 just three years later. The report, entitled “Comparing Program Participation of TANF and non-TANF Families Before and During a Time of Recession,” compared data collected in Sept. 2006 and Aug. 2009 to assess the effects of the economic downturn on families with children under the age of 18 in the United States.

TANF is administrated by the Department of Health and Human Services. It provides temporary assistance to families in need, with an aim of getting them off that assistance. TANF, know until 1996 as the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program, uses federal funding but is administrated by the states.

While participation rates for married families with children increased from 2006 to 2009, the report states that there were no significant changes in TANF participation rates for single-parent households, nor were there any increases in TANF participation for families already classified as poor.

The report also states that children, whether living in a TANF family or not, are far likelier to have at least one unemployed parent than in 2006. According to the report, the percentage of families on TANF assistance with two employed parents dropped from 66.9 percent in 2006 to 59.6 percent in 2009, while equivalent statistics dropped from 95.1 percent to 94.1 percent for non-TANF families.

While the report finds more non-TANF families receiving energy assistance and food stamps than in 2006, the report also says that the number of TANF families engaged in employment-seeking and job skills programs have increased by more than 50 percent since 2006.

Report author Shelley K. Irving, a demographer in the Census Bureau’s Social, Economic and Housing Statistics Division, said that the married-couple families, who generally have the lowest levels of participation in federal welfare programs, saw an increase in TANF participation in the three-year timeframe.

“The report suggests that the recent economic recession impacted American families with children and that the impact was not just limited to TANF families or poor families,” she commented.


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