As a social program, welfare is one of the most divisive political programs in recent history. Some individuals argue that the program provides crucial assistance to individuals who could not survive without the program. Others, however, believe that the programs represent a financial drain on the taxpayers by individuals who refuse to accept personal responsibility. Welfare programs are meant to be short-term assistance for individuals who are struggling financially. However, many individuals stay on welfare and financial assistance programs for significant periods of time. This is antithetical to the nature of welfare programs. Opponents also use this as an argument against the programs. They believe that the programs create social dependency, often creating cycles of poverty. Unfortunately, North Carolina does follow this pattern. Welfare, as it was intended, is not working effectively in North Carolina.
Welfare is an incorrect term; however, it is often used to describe programs that provide assistance to needy families and individuals. Welfare programs actually refer to several different programs. One is Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps. There is no time limit on how long an individual or family may receive this type of assistance. Another program is Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). TANF replaced the previous welfare program in 1996. Unlike previous programs, TANF imposes a lifetime limit on individuals. After two years on the program, an individual must participate in some form of work to consider receiving funds. There is a sixty month lifetime limit on how long an individual can receive funds (National Center for Children in Poverty). Another program is Section 8 Housing. This program provides rent assistance to individuals to obtain suitable housing (Department of Housing and Urban Development).
North Carolina is one of the poorest states in the nation. The state also has one of the highest rates of unemployment in the nation. These factors create the need for financial assistance for many of the citizens of North Carolina. According to ABC News, three North Carolina cities rank among the ten poorest in the nation. In North Carolina, twenty-six percent of all children live below the poverty line. Fourteen percent of all seniors live in poverty. The unemployment rate is 10.5%. Over one fourth of all jobs are low-paying jobs. However, North Carolina has followed cycles of poverty. Only three of every four students graduate from high school; lack of education helps lead to poverty (Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity). Per every 1,000 teenage girls, ages fifteen to nineteen, 39.6 births occur. This actually represents a decrease in recent years for North Carolina. Teenage pregnancy is one of the leading causes of poverty (The Chronicle). Decreasing the rate of teenage pregnancy can help break the cycle of poverty in North Carolina.
Individuals and groups in favor of welfare programs argue that individuals and families require these programs to provide a basic level of living for them. Groups argue that without these programs, families will lose their housing and also struggle to meet food needs for the families. Others, however, argue that welfare programs encourage a level of dependence upon the government and the taxpayers. They believe that individuals and families should depend upon themselves to meet the majority of their needs. They also argue that the cost of welfare programs is a drain on taxpayers.
Welfare programs in North Carolina are not effective. The purpose of welfare is to increase the ability of an individual and family to support themselves. However, welfare is growing in North Carolina. Between 2007 and 2008, there was an increase of 3.7% in individuals receiving welfare benefits. Yes, there was an increase in unemployment at this time; however, that increased less than 3.7%. Unemployment increased 2.2%. This indicates that more individuals are depending upon the state and federal governments for their living expenses (The New York Times). One of the reasons that welfare is not working in North Carolina is because welfare pays more than work. It is doubtful that an individual would want to work if welfare paid more. By all means, employment costs an individual money. There are transportation and clothing costs associated with employment. It only makes sense that an individual would do what provides the greatest financial benefit. In North Carolina, the average pre-tax income is $25,760. Welfare benefits may provide up to $28,142 in North Carolina (Cronin). This is not an effective incentive for achieving independence. North Carolina needs to reduce the teen pregnancy rates, improve their education rates and also possibly increase minimum wage. These factors combined may result in a decrease in welfare.
By all means, no one wants to see a child go hungry or a family become homeless. However, the current welfare system is not working in North Carolina. There is little incentive for obtaining an education or finding a job if welfare pays more. The rates of welfare in North Carolina have increased in recent years. This also indicates a failure for the system.
- ABC News. “Three North Carolina Cities Rank Among Poorest in Nation.” 10 October 2013. 2 December 2013. http://abclocal.go.com
- Cronin, Brenda. “Work of Welfare: What Pays More?” The Wall Street Journal. 19 August 2013. 2 December 2013.
- Department of Housing and Urban Development. “Housing Choice Vouchers Fact Sheet.” 2012. 2 December 2013.
- National Center for Children in Poverty. “Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Cash Assistance.” 2012. 2 December 2013. http://www.nccp.org/profiles/NC_profile_36.html
- The Chronicle. “North Carolina Teen Pregnancy Drops to Record-Low Rate.” 24 October 2013. 2 December 2013. < http://www.dukechronicle.com/articles/2013/10/24/north-carolina- teen-pregnancy-drops-record-low-rate>