Social programs in the United States
Social programs in the United States are welfare subsidies designed to aid the needs of the U.S. population. Proposals for federal programs began with Theodore Roosevelt's New Nationalism and expanded with Woodrow Wilson's New Freedom, Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, John F. Kennedy's New Frontier, and Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society.
The programs vary in eligibility requirements and are provided by various organizations on a federal, state, local and private level. They help to provide food, shelter, education, healthcare and money to U.S. citizens through primary and secondary education, subsidies of college education, unemployment disability insurance, subsidies for eligible low-wage workers, subsidies for housing, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, pensions for eligible persons and health insurance programs that cover public employees. The Social Security system is the largest and most prominent social aid program. Medicare is another prominent program.
- 1 Analysis
- 2 History
- 3 Types of social programs
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 Further reading
|Characteristics of Households by Quintile 2010|
|Earners Per Household||0.42||0.90||1.29||1.70||1.97|
|Married couples (%)||17.0||35.9||48.8||64.3||78.4|
|Single Parents or Single (%)||83.0||64.1||51.2||35.7||21.6|
|Ages of Householders|
|65 years +||33.1||29.4||20.1||13.9||10.7|
|Work Status householders (%)|
|Worked Full Time (%)||17.4||44.7||61.1||71.5||77.2|
|Worked Part Time (%)||14.3||13.3||11.1||9.8||9.5|
|Did Not Work (%)||68.2||42.1||27.8||17.7||13.3|
|Education of Householders (%)|
|Less than High School||26.7||16.6||8.8||5.4||2.2|
|High School or some College||61.2||65.4||62.9||58.5||37.6|
|Bachelor’s degree or Higher||12.1||18.0||28.3||36.1||60.3|
|Source: U.S. Census Bureau|
The American welfare state was "designed" over many years to alleviate the effects of poverty on those earning or receiving low income or encountering serious medical problems. Unfortunately the large number of programs that have resulted has led to many overlapping programs that are a veritable hodgepodge that is of unknown efficacy. Unlike many of the welfare states in Europe the United States welfare system has restricted nearly all of its benefits to the bottom one-third of income earners through extensive means testing on income and/or wealth. One good aspect of this is that the Federal government does not take up nearly 50% of all incomes in taxes as is common in Sweden, France etc.. These countries typically spread their social programs out to nearly all residents but then tax the benefits and impose a 15-25% VAT (sales tax) to recapture much of it. Unfortunately, since the programs in the United States seem to be focused on alleviating some of the effects of relative poverty they have done a "lousy" job of teaching people how to stay out of poverty--finish school, don't have children unless you are married, get a job and good intentions are not enough. It's unclear how much good all these extensive programs have done since they are seldom reviewed by Congress; but they have spent an enormous amount of money--almost $717 billion in Federal funds plus $210 billion in state funds for $927 billion total in 2010--and increasing fast.
Unlike in Europe, Christian democratic and social democratic theories have not played a major role in shaping welfare policy in the United States. Entitlement programs in the U.S. were virtually non-existent until the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the implementation of the New Deal programs in response to the Great Depression. Between 1932 and 1981, modern American liberalism dominated U.S. economic policy and the entitlements grew along with American middle class wealth.
Eligibility for welfare benefits depends on a variety of factors, including gross and net income, family size, pregnancy, homelessness, unemployment, and serious medical conditions like blindness, kidney failure or AIDS.
Drug Testing for applicants
Drug testing in order for potential recipients to receive welfare has become an increasingly controversial topic. Richard Hudson, a Republican from North Carolina claims he pushes for drug screening as a matter of "moral obligation" and that testing should be enforced as a way for the United States government to discourage drug usage.  Others claim that ordering the needy to drug test "stereotypes, stigmatizes, and criminalizes" them without need.  States that currently require drug tests to be performed in order to receive public assistance include Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Utah. 
Some have argued that welfare has come to be associated with poverty. Martin Gilens, assistant professor of Political Science at Yale University, argues that blacks have overwhelmingly dominated images of poverty over the last few decades and states that "white Americans with the most exaggerated misunderstandings of the racial composition of the poor are the most likely to oppose welfare". This perception possibly perpetuates negative racial stereotypes and could increase Americans’ opposition and racialization of welfare policies.
In FY 2010, African-American families comprised 31.9% of TANF families, white families comprised 31.8%, and 30.0% were Hispanic. Since the implementation of TANF, the percentage of Hispanic families has increased, while the percentages of white and black families have decreased. In FY 1997, African-American families represented 37.3% of TANF recipient families, white families 34.5%, and Hispanic families 22.5%.
In 2002, total U.S. social welfare expenditure constitutes over 35% of GDP, with purely public expenditure constituting 21%, publicly supported but privately provided welfare services constituting 10% of GDP and purely private services constituting 4% of GDP. This compared to the "welfare" states of France and Sweden where welfare spending ranges from 30% to 35% of GDP.
The Great Recession made a large impact on welfare spending. In a 2011 article, Forbes reported, "The best estimate of the cost of the 185 federal means tested welfare programs for 2010 for the federal government alone is $717 billion, up a third since 2008, according to the Heritage Foundation. Counting state spending of about $210 million, total welfare spending for 2010 reached over $920 billion, up nearly one-fourth since 2008 (24.3%)"--and increasing fast.
New Deal (1930s)
War on Poverty and Great Society programs (1960s)
After the Great Society legislation of the 1960s, for the first time a person who was not elderly or disabled could receive need-based aid from the federal government.[dubious ] Aid could include general welfare payments, health care through Medicaid, food stamps, special payments for pregnant women and young mothers, and federal and state housing benefits.
In 1968, 4.1% of families were headed by a woman receiving welfare assistance; by 1980, the percentage increased to 10%. In the 1970s, California was the U.S. state with the most generous welfare system. Virtually all food stamp costs are paid by the federal government. In 2008, 28.7 percent of the households headed by single women were considered poor.
Welfare reform (1990s)
Before the Welfare Reform Act of 1996, welfare assistance was "once considered an open-ended right," but welfare reform converted it "into a finite program built to provide short-term cash assistance and steer people quickly into jobs." Prior to reform, states were given "limitless" money by the federal government, increasing per family on welfare, under the 60-year-old Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program. This gave states no incentive to direct welfare funds to the neediest recipients or to encourage individuals to go off welfare benefits (the state lost federal money when someone left the system). Nationwide, one child in seven received AFDC funds, which mostly went to single mothers.
In 1996, under the Bill Clinton administration, Congress passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, which gave more control of the welfare system to the states though there are basic requirements the states need to meet with regards to welfare services. Still, most states offer basic assistance, such as health care, food assistance, child care assistance, unemployment, cash aid, and housing assistance. After reforms, which President Clinton said would "end welfare as we know it," amounts from the federal government were given out in a flat rate per state based on population.
Each state must meet certain criteria to ensure recipients are being encouraged to work themselves out of welfare. The new program is called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). It encourages states to require some sort of employment search in exchange for providing funds to individuals, and imposes a five-year lifetime limit on cash assistance. The bill restricts welfare from most legal immigrants and increased financial assistance for child care. The federal government also maintains an emergency $2 billion TANF fund to assist states that may have rising unemployment.
Following these changes, millions of people left the welfare rolls (a 60% drop overall), employment rose, and the child poverty rate was reduced. A 2007 Congressional Budget Office study found that incomes in affected families rose by 35%. The reforms were "widely applauded" after "bitter protest." The Times called the reform "one of the few undisputed triumphs of American government in the past 20 years."
Critics of the reforms sometimes point out that the massive decrease of people on the welfare rolls during the 1990s wasn't due to a rise in actual gainful employment in this population, but rather, was due almost exclusively to their offloading into workfare, giving them a different classification than classic welfare recipient. The late 1990s were also considered an unusually strong economic time, and critics voiced their concern about what would happen in an economic downturn.
National Review editorialized that the Economic Stimulus Act of 2009 will reverse the welfare-to-work provisions that Bill Clinton signed in the 1990s, and will again base federal grants to states on the number of people signed up for welfare rather than at a flat rate. One of the experts who worked on the 1996 bill said that the provisions would lead to the largest one-year increase in welfare spending in American history. The House bill provides $4 billion to pay 80% of states' welfare caseloads. Although each state received $16.5 billion annually from the federal government as welfare rolls dropped, they spent the rest of the block grant on other types of assistance rather than saving it for worse economic times.
|Spending on largest Welfare Programs
Federal Spending 2003-2013*
|Medicaid Grants to States||$201,389||$266,565|
|Food Stamps (SNAP)||61,717||82,603|
|Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)||40,027||55,123|
|Supplemental Security Income (SSI)||38,315||50,544|
|Child Nutrition Program (CHIP)||13,558||20,842|
|Support Payments to States, TANF||28,980||20,842|
|Feeding Programs (WIC & CSFP)||5,695||6,671|
|Low Income Home Energy Assistance||2,542||3,704|
* Spending in millions of dollars
The following is a short timeline of welfare in the United States:
1880s–1890s: Attempts were made to move poor people from work yards to poor houses if they were in search of relief funds.
1893–1894: Attempts were made at the first unemployment payments, but were unsuccessful due to the 1893–1894 recession.
1932: The Great Depression had gotten worse and the first attempts to fund relief failed. The "Emergency Relief Act", which gave local governments $300 million, was passed into law.
1935: The Social Security Act was passed on June 17, 1935. The bill included direct relief (cash, food stamps, etc.) and changes for unemployment insurance.
1940: Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC) was established.
1996: Passed under Clinton, the "Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996" becomes law.
2013: Affordable Care Act goes into effect with large increases in Medicaid and subsidized medical insurance premiums go into effect.
Household's Average Taxes and Income
|Average Incomes and Taxes
CBO Study 2009*
Tax rate %3
Taxes Pd. 5
|Source: Congressional Budget Office Study
1. Market Income = All wages, tips, incomes etc. as listed on Income tax form
2. Federal Transfers = all EITC, CTC, medicaid, food stamps (SNAP), Social Security, SSI etc. received
3. Average tax rate includes all Social Security, Medicare, income, business income, excise, etc. taxes.
4. Net Federal taxes paid in dollars
5. Percent of all federal taxes paid
6. #W = Average number of workers per household in this quintile
7. % Net Income = percentage of all national income each quintile receives after taxes and transfers.
State taxes which average about 10-12% will take another 3-15% out of this income
Many studies do not consider all or any federal transfers and are in "error" as to household income(s)
Households in the bottom 40% of incomes (the bottom two quintiles) that receive the benefits of most of the United States Social Programs are different in many ways from other middle and higher income bracket households. About the only social program "benefits" the upper 60% of income households receive is a reduced percentage of their Social Security taxes in retirement benefits and Medicare benefits for their Medicare tax payments. Most studies of "poverty in the U.S." do not consider all or any federal transfers and are in error as to household income(s). One of the reasons the "poverty rate" is so stubborn at about 15% in the U.S. is these many expensive social programs are seldom considered--federal benefit transfers are ignored. Today the "poverty" line is usually "defined" as being 60% below the average income--poverty is only a relative measure in the U.S.. If everyone's income was cut in half the poverty rate would still be the same by this definition even though by any "real" measure poverty would be much wider spread. A "truer" measure of today's (2013) U.S. poverty after all theses expensive programs have spent a lot of our money is about zero even by our "relative" definition of poverty. The very poorest of the poor in the United States--the bottom 5% (and thus very definitely below our "artificial" poverty line)--are in fact richer than 95% of all Indians, 85% of all Chinese and 55% of all Brazilians.
Means tested Social Programs
|Means Tested Programs in U.S. (2011)|
|SSI/Old Age Assistance||56,462.00||4,673.00||61,135.00|
|Earned Income Tax Credit
|Refundable Child Credit||22,691.00||22,691.00|
|Make Work Pay Tax Credit
|Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
(TANF, old AFDC)
|Foster Care Title IVE||4,456.00||3,921.28||8,377.28|
|Adoption Assistance Title IVE||2,362.00||1,316||3,678.00|
|General Assistance Cash||2,625.00||2,625.00|
|General Assistance to Indians||115.00||115.00|
|Assets for Independence||24.00||24.00|
|SCHIP State Supplemental
Health Insurance Program
|Medical General Assistance||6,965.90||6,965.90|
|Indian Health Services||3,815.00||3,815.00|
|Consolidated Health Center
/Community Health Centers
|Maternal & Child Health||656.00||492.00||1,148.00|
|Medical Assistance to Refugees||167.86||167.86|
|Food Stamps, SNAP||77,637.00||6,987.33||84,624.33|
|School Lunch Program||10,321.00||10,321.00|
|WIC Women, Infant and
Children Food Program
|Child Care Food Program||2,732.00||2,732.00|
|Nutrition Program for the
Elderly, Nutrition Service Incentives
|Commodity Supplemental Food Program||196.00||196.00|
Emergency Food Program
|Farmers' Market Nutrition Program||23.00||23.00|
|Special Milk Program||13.00||13.00|
|Section 8 Housing (HUD)||28,435.00||28,435.00|
|Public Housing (HUD)||8,973.00||8,973.00|
|Low Income Housing
Tax Credit for Developers
Partnership Program (HUD)
|State Housing Expenditures (from SWE)||2,085.00||2,085.00|
|Rural Housing Insurance
|Housing for the Elderly (HUD)||934.00||934.00|
Housing Block Grants (HUD)
|Other Assisted Housing
|Housing for Persons
with Disabilities (HUD)
|ENERGY AND UTILITIES|
|LIHEAP Low Income Home
|Universal Service Fund
Subsidized Low Income Phone Service
|ENERGY AND UTILITIES TOTAL||6,403.00||6,403.00|
|Title One Grants to
Local Education Authorities
|21st Century Learning Centers||1,157.00||1,157.00|
|Special Programs for
|Adult Basic Education Grants||607.00||607.00|
|LEAP Formerly State Student
Incentive Grant Program (SSIG)
|Education for Homeless
Children and Youth
|Aid for Graduate and Professional
Study for Disadvantaged and Minorities
|TANF Work Activities and Training||2,504.90||831.93||3,336.83|
|WIA Youth Opportunity Grants
Formerly Summer Youth Employment
|Senior Community Service Employment||705.00||77.55||782.55|
|WIA Adult Employment and Training
formerly JTPA IIA Training for
Disadvantaged Adults & Youth
|Food Stamp Employment
and Training Program
|Native American Training||52.00||52.00|
|TANF Block Grant Services||5,385.12||4,838.13||10,223.25|
|Title XX Social Services Block Grant||1,787.00||1,787.00|
|Community Service Block Grant||678.00||678.00|
|Social Services for
Refugees Asylees and Humanitarian Cases
|Safe and Stable Families||553.00||553.00|
|Title III Aging Americans Act||369.00||369.00|
|Legal Services Block Grant||406.00||406.00|
|Emergency Food and Shelter Program||48.00||48.00|
|Healthy Marriage and
Responsible Fatherhood Grants
|Independent Living (Chafee
Foster Care Independence Program)
|Independent Living Training Vouchers||45.00||45.00|
|Maternal, Infants and
Children Home Visitation
|CHILD CARE AND CHILD DEVELOPMENT|
Child Development Block Grant
|Childcare Entitlement to the States||3,100.00||3,100.00|
|TANF Block Grant Child Care||2,318.56||2,643.78||4,962.35|
|CHILD CARE & CHILD DEVELOPMENT TOTAL||15,961.56||6,709.53||22,671.10|
|Community Development Block Grant
and Related Development Funds
Administration (Dept. of Commerce)
|Appalachian Regional Development||68.00||68.00|
Enterprise Communities Renewal
|COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT TOTAL||7,937.00||7,937.00|
|TOTAL in millions (2011)||$717,093.48||$210,140.07||$927,233.55|
|Social Security OASDI (2013)||$785,700|
|TOTAL in millions||$2,287,133|
* Spending in millions of dollars
2.3 Trillion Dollar Total of Social Security, Medicare and Means Tested Welfare
is low since latest 2013 means tested data not available but 2013
"real" TOTAL will be higher
|125 Means tested Programs 2008, CATO|
|Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
(SNAP, Food Stamps) 38
|Earned Income Tax Credit
(Refundable Portion) EITC39
|Supplemental Security Income, SSI40||43,700||8,100,000|
|Federal Pell Grants41||41,000||9,614,000|
|Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
TANF (old AFDC)42
|Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers43||18,100||2,000,000 (hsld)|
|Very Low to Moderate Income
Housing Loans- Sec. 50244
|Title 1 Grants to Local Education
|Children’s Health Insurance
|National School Lunch Program47||10,900||31,000,000|
|Adjustable Rate Mortgages48||10,600||43,687 (units)|
|Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood
Home Visiting Program49
|Special Supplemental Nutrition
for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) 50
|Child Care and Development Block
|Low Income Home Energy Assistance53||4,700.0||N/A (grants)|
|Foster Care Title IV54||3,976||N/A (grants)|
|Public and Indian Housing55||3,900||1,100,000 (units)|
|State Administrative Matching
Grants for SNAP56
|Child Care and Development
Mandatory and Matching Funds57
|School Breakfast Program58||2,900||11,600,000|
|Adoption Assistance59||2,480||N/A (grants)|
|Public Housing Capital Fund60||2,307||N/A (grants)|
|Social Services Block Grant Title XX61||1,700||N/A (grants)|
|Home Investment Partnership Program62||1,610||92,228 units|
|Universal Service Fund63||1,320||8,442,355|
|Impact Aid64||1,267||N/A (grants)|
|Supportive Housing Program65||1,181||N/A (grants)|
|Academic Competitive Grants (SMART) Grants66||980.5||713,000|
|Federal Work Study Program67||978.8||711,588|
|Rural Rental Assistance Payments68||953.7||N/A|
|Work Investment Act (WIA) Youth
|WIA Adult Program70||770.8||5,800,000|
|Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants71||735.9||1,301,163|
|Indian Housing Block Grants72||754.9||N/A (grants)|
|Community Services Block Grant73||668.1||N/A (grants)|
|Special Programs for the Aging, Title III,
Part C, Nutrition Services74
|Adult Education Grants to States75||596.1||N/A (grants)|
|Supportive Housing for the Elderly76||580||N/A|
|Maternal and Child Health Services
Block Grants to the States77
|Race to the Top Early
|Shelter Plus Care79||463.6||N/A (grants)|
|Legal Services Corporation80||404.2||905,406 cases|
|Migrant Education State Grant Program81||394.7||445,707|
|Promoting Safe and Stable Families82||376.2||N/A (grants)|
|Summer Food Service for Children83||371.3||2,341,000 (peak)|
|Special Programs for the Aging, Title III,
Part B, Grants for Supportive Services84
|TRIO Upward Bound85||305.||4 64,262|
|Temporary Assistance for Needy
Families (TANF) Supplemental Grants86
|Gaining Early Awareness and
Readiness for Undergraduate Programs87
|TRIO Student Support Services88||290.5||202,921|
|Stephanie Tubbs Jones Child
|Weatherization Assistance for Low
|Emergency Food Assistance (Commodities) 91||247.5||N/A (grants)|
|Emergency Food and Shelter Program92||225||N/A (grants)|
|Federal Aid to State Administrative
Expenses for Child Nutrition93
|Lower Income Housing Assistance
Program, Section 8, Moderate Rehabilitation94
|Commodity Supplemental Food
Block Grant, Section 108
|College Access Challenge Grant
|Investing in Innovation Fund (I3) 98||148.1||N/A (grants)|
|TRIO Talent Search99||138.7||319,678|
|Demolition and Revitalization of
Severely Distressed Public Housing101
|WIC Grants to States102||99.5||N/A (grants)|
|Healthy Start Initiative103||98.1||N/A (grants)|
|Food Distribution on Indian
|U.S. Refugee Admissions Program105||90||80,000|
|Appalachian Area Development106||72||N/A (grants)|
|Education for Homeless Children and
|Indian Social Services Welfare
|Projects for Assistance in the
Transition from Homelessness109
|Farm Labor Housing Loans
|Indian Community Development
Block Grant Program111
|Indian and Native American
Training Grant Program112
|Very Low Income Housing Repair
Loans and Grants113
|Prevention and Intervention Programs
for Children and Youths Who Are
Neglected, Delinquent, or at Risk114
|Section 4 Capacity Building for
Community Development and
|High School Graduation Initiative116||48.9||N/A (grants)|
|TRIO Educational Opportunity
|WIA Pilots, Demonstrations and
|TRIO McNair Post-Baccalaureate
|Indian Health Services (Urban ) 120||43.1||N/A (grants)|
|Adoption Incentive Payments121||39.5||N/A (grants)|
|Transitional Living for Homeless
|Rural Self Help Housing Technical
|Graduate Assistance in Areas of
|Section 538 Rural Rental Housing
|Self-Help Ownership Opportunity
|Assets for Independence Demonstration
|Services to Indian Children, Elderly
|Special Programs for the Aging Title
III Part D Disease Prevention and
Health Promotion Services129
|Senior Farmers Market Nutrition
|Migrant Education- High School Equivalency131||19.9||7,000|
|WIC Farmers Market Nutrition
|Outreach and Assistance for
Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and
|Rural Rental Housing Loans134||18||N/A|
|Migrant Education, College Assistance
|Child Care Access Means Parents in School136||16||N/A (grants)|
|Rural Development Multi-Family
Housing Revitalization Development
|Rent Supplements: Rental Housing
for Lower Income Families138
|Indian Child Welfare Act Title II
Assistance Outreach and
|Special Milk for Children141||10.6||N/A|
|Rural Housing Site loans 142||10||N/A|
|Low Income Taxpayer Clinics143||9.9||N/A (grants)|
|Rural Housing Preservation Grants144||9.8||N/A (grants)|
|Drug Free Communities Support Grants145||9.35||N/A (grants)|
|Cuban and Haitian Entrant Program146||7.9||3,000|
|Community Development Block Grants
Special Purpose/Insular Area147
|Emergency Capital Repair
Grants for Multifamily
Housing Projects Designated for Occupancy148
|Community Food Projects149||4.8||N/A (grants)|
|Community Outreach and Assistance
|TRIO Staff Training Program151||3.5||N/A (grants)|
|Migrant Education-Coordination Program152||3||N/A (grants)|
|Consolidated Health Centers153||2.2||N/A (grants)|
|Title V Delinquency Prevention Program154||2||N/A (grants)|
|Job Opportunities for Low Income Individuals155||1.6||N/A (grants)|
|Healthy Urban Food Enterprise
|Undergraduate Scholarship for
Individuals from Disadvantaged Backgrounds157
|Emergency Food Assistance
(Food Commodities) 158
|Source: CATO using U.S. Census Bureau data;
Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, etc. (see reference for list).
Suffixes refer to CATO reference number--see CATO
In the United States there are at least 79 programs (CATO found 125 programs) that are means tested--confined to those of limited incomes. All of the means tested programs serve similar overlapping populations that nearly always fall within the bottom one-third of the U.S. population with the lowest incomes. Many of the present 79 programs overlap and have grown over the years into a hodgepodge of different programs run by different government agencies with different selection criteria. The primary criteria to receive benefits from these programs is that you do not make "too much" money or have "too many" assets--middle to high income people need not apply, just send money. This category of aid has grown the fastest in the last five years and is projected to grow even faster if the latest proposed budgets are adopted. The $927 billion cost (2011) of the 79 means tested programs makes them the largest single budget item in the United States federal budget. Unfortunately, since these programs are spread over a number of different government agencies they are "never" considered or listed as a single budget item--which they probably should be. Social Security and Medicare are not considered means tested since the recipients are receiving benefits they "paid" for in payroll taxes. But even these benefits are heavily biased to towards the lower income recipients.
One of the problems with means tested programs is that they may discourage workers from either looking for work, working full time or looking for higher paying job since this may disqualify them from many of the means tested benefit(s) they are presently receiving. These programs also encourage a lot of black market or "underground" cash economies--documented income may/will reduce or eliminate benefits and incur paying payroll taxes, etc..
The Earned Income Tax Credit and other means tested programs are often considered anti-marriage and anti-work, since marriage to a man/woman who is working and earning an income would greatly reduce or eliminate the EITC credit, CTC credit, Food Stamps (SNAP), rent assistance, etc. Many means tested state and federal government programs tell people that it’s financially "foolish" to get married despite good evidence that marriage is our best weapon against child poverty, inadequate education, etc..
The Social Security program mainly refers to the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) program, and possibly the unemployment insurance program. Retirement Insurance Benefits (RIB), also known as Old-age Insurance Benefits, are a form of social insurance payments made by the U.S. Social Security Administration paid based upon the attainment old age (62 or older).
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD or SSDI) is a federal insurance program that provides income supplements to people who are restricted in their ability to be employed because of a notable disability.
Unemployment insurance, also known as unemployment compensation, provides for money, from the United States and the state collected from employers, to workers who have become unemployed through no fault of their own. The unemployment benefits are run by each state with different state defined criteria for duration, percent of income paid, etc.. Nearly all require the recipient to document their search for employment to continue receiving benefits. Extensions of time for receiving benefits are sometimes offered for extensive work unemployment. These extra benefits are usually in the form of loans from the federal government that have to be repaid by each state.
The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program provides stipends to low-income people who are either aged (65 or older), blind, or disabled.
The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) provides cash assistance to indigent American families with dependent children.
Health care in the United States is provided by many separate legal entities. Health care facilities are largely owned and operated by the private sector. Health insurance in the United States is now primarily provided by the government in the public sector, with 60–65% of healthcare provision and spending coming from programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE, the Children's Health Insurance Program, and the Veterans Health Administration.
Medicare is a social insurance program administered by the United States government, providing health insurance coverage to people who are aged 65 and over; to those who are under 65 and are permanently physically disabled or who have a congenital physical disability; or to those who meet other special criteria like the End Stage Renal Disease program (ESRD). Medicare in the United States somewhat resembles a single-payer health care system but is not. Before Medicare, only 51% of people aged 65 and older had health care coverage, and nearly 30% lived below the federal poverty level.
Medicaid is a health program for certain people and families with low incomes and resources. It is a means-tested program that is jointly funded by the state and federal governments, and is managed by the states. People served by Medicaid are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, including low-income adults, their children, and people with certain disabilities. Poverty alone does not necessarily qualify someone for Medicaid. Medicaid is the largest source of funding for medical and health-related services for people with limited income in the United States.
The Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is a program administered by the United States Department of Health and Human Services that provides matching funds to states for health insurance to families with children. The program was designed to cover uninsured children in families with incomes that are modest but too high to qualify for Medicaid.
The Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Services Block Grant (or ADMS Block Grant) is a federal assistance block grant given by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
Per capita spending on tertiary education is among the highest in the world. Public education is managed by individual states, municipalities and regional school districts. As in all developed countries, primary and secondary education is free, universal and mandatory. Parents do have the option of home-schooling their children, though some states, such as California (until a 2008 legal ruling overturned this requirement), require parents to obtain teaching credentials before doing so. Experimental programs give lower-income parents the option of using government issued vouchers to send their kids to private rather than public schools in some states/regions.
As of 2007, more than 80% of all primary and secondary students were enrolled in public schools, including 75% of those from households with incomes in the top 5%. Public schools commonly offer after-school programs and the government subsidizes private after school programs, such as the Boys & Girls Club. While pre-school education is subsidized as well, through programs such as Head Start, many Americans still find themselves unable to take advantage of them. Some education critics have therefore proposed creating a comprehensive transfer system to make pre-school education universal, pointing out that the financial returns alone would compensate for the cost.
Tertiary education is not free, but is subsidized by individual states and the federal government. Some of the costs at public institutions is carried by the state.
The government also provides grants, scholarships and subsidized loans to most students. Those who do not qualify for any type of aid, can obtain a government guaranteed loan and tuition can often be deducted from the federal income tax. Despite subsidized attendance cost at public institutions and tax deductions, however, tuition costs have risen at three times the rate of median household income since 1982. In fear that many future Americans might be excluded from tertiary education, progressive Democrats have proposed increasing financial aid and subsidizing an increased share of attendance costs. Some Democratic politicians and political groups have also proposed to make public tertiary education free of charge, i.e. subsidizing 100% of attendance cost.
In the U.S., financial assistance for food purchasing for low- and no-income people is provided through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program. This federal aid program is administered by the Food and Nutrition Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but benefits are distributed by the individual U.S. states. It is historically and commonly known as the Food Stamp Program, though all legal references to "stamp" and "coupon" have been replaced by "EBT" and "card," referring to the refillable, plastic Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards that replaced the paper "food stamp" coupons. To be eligible for SNAP benefits, the recipients must have incomes below 130 percent of the poverty line, and also own few assets. Since the economic downturn began in 2008, the use of food stamps has increased.
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is a child nutrition program for healthcare and nutrition of low-income pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and infants and children under the age of five. The eligibility requirement is a family income below 185% of the U.S. Poverty Income Guidelines, but if a person participates in other benefit programs, or has family members who participate in SNAP, Medicaid, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, they automatically meet the eligibility requirements.
The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) is a type of United States Federal assistance provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to states in order to provide a daily subsidized food service for an estimated 3.2 million children and 112,000 elderly or mentally or physically impaired adults in non-residential, day-care settings.
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