A social welfare system exists to provide assistance for individuals or groups that cannot support themselves otherwise due to circumstances shaped by disabilities, underemployment, or an unskilled labor capacity. Aids that come in the forms of healthcare, food stamps, or unemployment compensation provide a safety net for millions of Americans each year. With money from American taxpayers, the federal government distributes an annual grant to the states. In return, states utilize the grant money in addition to their funds in order to operate and maintain their own welfare programs.When the term “welfare” is mentioned in today’s America, the first federal program that comes to mind is the Temporary Assistance of Needy Families (TANF) program. The TANF program is funded through a federal block grant totaling $16.5 billion dollars that is distributed to the different states. With this block grant and states’ MOE (maintenance of effort) fund, the TANF program is designed to provide economic security and stability for low-income families with dependent children. There are four general goals of the TANF program: to assist families so that the children are able to be cared for in their own home or in the homes of relatives, to end families’ dependence on government welfare programs, to prevent and reduce circumstances caused by unplanned pregnancies, and to encourage the formation of stable two-parent families.In order for a state to receive a portion of the the annual $16.5 billion dollar block grant, the state must contribute an amount that is 80 percent of their 1994 contribution to AFDC-related programs which roughly accounts to about $15 billion dollars. Although states receive federal funding, they are allowed to use their own discretion when determining requirements, eligibility limits, and benefit levels for potential beneficiaries. However, there are still general rules that states must follow such as: assisting eligible legal immigrants only if that have been in the United States for at least five years, barring illegal immigrants from becoming beneficiaries, and establishing a 60 month time limit on cash assistance to families with an adult recipient.TANF is intended for families with dependent children, but cannot afford to pay for basic needs. In order for a family to be able to apply for TANF, they must not know over $2,000 in assets. Assets do not include one’s car, personal goods (jewelry, clothes, furniture), or the home the family lives in. Generally a family of three with no income can receive up to $278 per month; however, this varies from family to family. It is a common misconception The TANF program is overseen federally by the Office of Family Assistance under the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, but in North Carolina, the TANF program (called Work First) is overseen by the North Carolina Division of Social Services. Work First focuses on providing cash assistance to eligible families and to set up programs to ensure success for families in the long-term. Compared to the federal time limit of 60 months on cash assistance, Work First beneficiaries only receive benefits for up to 24 months and after these 24 months, families cannot receive Work First assistance for another three years.If a family is at or below 200% of the federal poverty level ($10,210 for a family of 3) and meets all other eligibility, then the NC Division of Social Services must provide some sort of welfare that can include employment related services, transportation to/from work, post-employment short-term skills training, and child and family enrichment services. This is the first step of Work First’s strategy to keep families off of cash assistance called the “diversion step.”For a family to receive Work First Benefits (WFB), parents must first register with the First Stop Employment Assistance Program and sign a Mutual Responsibility Agreement. This Mutual Responsibility Agreement requires beneficiaries to work or participate in work-related activities. The nine core activities are: unsubsidized employment, subsidized private-sector employment, subsidized public-sector employment, work experience, on the job training, job search and job readiness assistance, community service programs, vocational educational training, and providing child care services to an individual who is participating in a community service program. Three non-core activities are: job skills training directly related to employment, education directly related to employment, and satisfactory attendance at a secondary school or high school.Federal policy requires two-parent families participate in these work-related activities for around 35 hours a week in order to receive cash assistance. Ever since the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (primary goal was to grant state flexibility in their Medicaid programs) and an increase in federal regulations, it has become more difficult for states to meet the work rates required by federal policy, which, in turn, made it harder for beneficiaries to stay eligible for Work First. This is the “work step” of Work First’s strategy in providing a safety net for North Carolina residents. Retention is the last step of Work First strategy to keep families off of welfare. During this step, Work First aims to keep families off of welfare by putting out programs to encourage smart use of money and to provide transportation to past beneficiaries.To prevent fraud and abuse, a multitude of regulations are put into place that are enforced by the Division of Social Services. Individuals that intentionally commit a program violation will not be allowed to participate in the Work First program for twelve months. A second violation will result in not being able to participate for 24 months and a third would be permanent. After a violation, the cash benefit for the beneficiary is subsequently reduced and the offender is required to pay back any overpayments issued by the Division of Social Services.The United States didn’t always have a welfare system in place, but in 1935 President Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act. His decision to sign this act stemmed from the poverty that the Great Depression had caused. The stock market had crashed and millions of Americans were left without jobs and without a safety net, poverty reached a point where looting grocery stores seemed like the only option available. The Social Security Act promptly set up a retirement program for Americans over the age of 65, but more importantly the act increased the federal government’s responsibility in providing for the security of all Americans.In addition to providing a safety net for the elderly, the Social Security Act established a national welfare system where the federal government granted money to states to spend towards their welfare programs. This is where the idea of the $16.5 billion dollar federal block grant came from, but it was not until 1996 that TANF was created through the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. TANF replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). The difference between AFDC and TANF, was that AFDC’s focus was to provide cash assistance to poor families with children, but TANF expands on this horizon by including programs that helps the poor stay off of welfare and programs to prevent families from needing welfare to being with.With a Republican majority in Congress and a Republican President, there are plans to reform welfare in the battle against poverty. In their election-year agenda, there are five ideas that Republicans are aiming to capitalize on when crafting legislation regarding welfare reforms: rewarding work, tailoring benefits to people’s needs, improving skills and schools, planning and saving for the future, and demanding results. Republicans want work-capable adults to work or prepare for work and they want to establish programs that will make it easier for families to plan for the future and to be retirement-ready. The Republican agenda does not just target the financial aspect of welfare, but the agenda also wants to implement a system of accountability in beneficiaries in addition to ensuring that poorer kids have more opportunities to succeed from childhood through college.It is to no surprise that Republicans want to cut spending in different areas one of which being welfare. Because of President Trump’s campaign promise to not touch Medicare, Republicans need to cut costs in programs like Food Stamps and Medicaid in order to cut spending. Medicaid is a form of welfare that provides health insurance for lower-income families. Federal health officials have already begun to push for work requirements on able-bodied adult recipients of Medicaid. Rather than treating Medicaid as a health insurance, this change would cause Medicaid to be treated as welfare program instead.Mike Lee, junior Senator representing Utah, has already proposed a bill to address welfare programs in the United States. His philosophy (shared by many other Republicans) is that the current welfare system encourages the poor to stay where they are the socioeconomic ladder due to the rewards of benefits. Senator Lee also believes that welfare programs should make poverty temporary rather than tolerable.In Senator Lee’s Welfare Reform and Upward Mobility Act, there would be an increase in work requirements for food stamps recipients. Work requirements would increase to 36 hours per month (without children) or 72 hours per month (with children). Additionally, this proposed bill would require the federal government to report all means-tested welfare spending with goals to create a greater transparency in this process. Moreover, this bill rewards states for money saved in their welfare programs by granting one-fourth of the saved money to the state.Various executive agencies are also advocating for welfare reforms. In early December, the Agriculture Department said that they would begin to allow states more power over the Food Stamps program, which could potentially increase drug testing and work requirements on recipients. Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Ben Carson, believes that subsidized housing should be provided for individuals that need it, but it should not foster more dependency on the government, which Carson believes is happening. Carson wants this situation on subsidized housing to change, but in order to do that, Carson believes that more opportunities need to be provided for first. Carson told POLITICO, that HUD will be heavily involved in welfare reforms with goals to provide more opportunities for struggling Americans.However, not everyone wants welfare reforms. “Bread for the World” is a Christian interest group that is aiming to end hunger in the United States along with the rest of the world. They meet with Congress members to change policies and programs that allow hunger and poverty to persist in our society. “Bread for the World” firmly believes that the progress against hunger and poverty is the result of lower unemployment and increased economic opportunities. With goals to end hunger by 2030, “Bread for the World” wants hunger to become a national priority as soon as possible. They are urging Congress members to take a strong stance and protect policies and safety-net programs such as WIC (Women, Infants, Children), global nutrition, SNAP (Food Stamps), and refundable tax credits. Fighting an uphill battle, “Bread for the World” runs a year-long campaign that focuses on writing letters to Congress members with the hopes of influencing them to take strong stances on programs that help alleviate hunger domestically and internationally.Being a past beneficiary of Food Stamps and current beneficiary of Medicaid, I believe that the concept of welfare has a place in society, but only to a certain extent. With evidence from the Great Depression, it is clear that things will turn sour both for the economy and the well-being of the country if a society has no safety nets for its poor citizens. However, I think that the amount of welfare programs that somebody is able to participate in and the amount of benefits that someone can earn in today’s society is ridiculous and promotes a culture that incentivizes unemployment. In figure 1B (printed on last page for convenience), a single adult with two dependent children that does not work can potentially earn nearly up to $30,000 in benefits. You also notice from the graph that there is a huge drop in benefits when the recipients makes around $30,000. A person that makes $25,000 would be able to receive up to $17,000 in benefits, but a person that makes $26,000 would only potentially be able to receive up to $13,000 in benefits. At the end of the day, the person that makes $25,000 ends up with a higher standard of living than the person that makes $26,000 ($42,000 value compared to $38,000). In this case, it benefits a recipient more to work less because who would the recipient would not want to work harder for less.What I would like to see improved in these policy areas is the cut off of different programs. For example, I think that the cut off at $25,000 is extremely drastic (especially for Medicaid) and causes a lot more problems than it was intended. By making the cut off more gradual for all programs, it can prevent this situation from occurring as frequently. We can see that for housing vouchers and SNAP, the cut off is a lot more gradual than Medicaid. If policies made the cut off more gradual for Medicaid by only covering part of a surgery at $25,000 compared to covering an entire surgery at $10,000 then it will limit the circumstances where people choose to work less. Now, if someone decides to work less to receive all the benefits, then overall they would not have a higher standard of living compared to a person that works more. I believe that the federal time limit for cash assistance for a recipient on TANF is too long. The federal time limit was 60 months, but I think that North Carolina does a great job in setting it to only 24 months. If the federal limit were to be reduced to 24 months then the United States would be able to save a lot more money. This extra money would go towards securing economic opportunities for its citizens rather than raising a higher standard of living of the poor. Additionally, I would like to see My philosophy aligns perfectly with Senator Lee’s. I agree that the conditions of poverty should only be temporary for people and not tolerated and for this reason, I think that the quality of life for poor citizens needs to be lowered (by lowering benefits). This would cause citizens to be more motivated to work and transition out of poverty especially if paired with a regressive cut-off. Although it can be argued that this would actually make citizens less willing to work since it will be more difficult to pull themselves out of poverty, I think that this argument is flawed. Poverty is supposed to be difficult (that’s why it’s called poverty) and by lowering the standards of living provided by benefits will also providing economic opportunities, I think that an impoverished family will experience an upward mobility on the socioeconomic ladder.