Welfare and Federalism's Peril

50 Pages Posted: 9 Feb 2017 Last revised: 22 Jan 2018

See all articles by Andrew Hammond

Andrew Hammond

Indiana University Maurer School of Law

Date Written: February 1, 2017


Recent scholarship on American federalism lacks case studies to inform that scholarship’s trans-substantive insights and claims. This Article examines the last two decades of devolution brought about by the 1996 Welfare Reform Act (PRWORA). It details the history of PRWORA and how the funding mechanism built into Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) — the TANF block grant — guaranteed the program’s deterioration. The Article documents the program’s failure to respond to increased need among poor families after Hurricane Katrina and in the Great Recession, showing how the federal government’s use of TANF in both crises teach us the limits of fiscally devolved programs. The Article then explores two potential paths forward for TANF as either a devolutionary outlier in social policy or as a harbinger of what is to come from recent Congressional proposals to block grant Medicaid and SNAP (food stamps). Public interest lawyers rightly fear that TANF could be the cutting edge of a newly devolved American safety net. The Article concludes by considering what the cautionary tale of TANF means for scholars of federalism and anti-poverty advocates.

Keywords: Federalism, Poverty Law, Medicaid, TANF, SNAP, Social Welfare Policy

Suggested Citation

Hammond, Andrew, Welfare and Federalism's Peril (February 1, 2017). 92 Washington Law Review 1721 (2017), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2911631 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2911631

Andrew Hammond (Contact Author)

Indiana University Maurer School of Law ( email )

211 S. Indiana Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

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