Welfare recipient numbers down 21 percent in Northumberland County
There are 21 percent fewer people receiving cash welfare in Northumberland County now than in 2011.
The number of participants in the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) fell from 749 in August 2011 to 592 in August of this year; 151 applications were rejected in that same time span, said Anne C. Bale, deputy press secretary for the state Department of Public Welfare (DPW).
The issue of lower TANF recipient numbers was raised through a Philadelphia Inquirer report, which said the state has denied as many as eight of every 10 applications for cash welfare in 2013, a major increase over previous years.
The increased rate of denials coincides with a change in state law last year that requires applicants to seek at least three jobs and document their efforts.
But Bale, who put the rate of rejection at 60 percent, said it's because more people are finding jobs.
"Less people are getting welfare benefits because they are getting jobs, which is a good thing," said Bale. "Some people don't have the ability to apply for a job due to disabilities or lack of child care. Those are the people we put on welfare so they can get the resources they need to work someday. If they need help, they will get it."
The 749 people in Northumberland County receiving the TANF benefit as of August 2011 included adults and children. In August 2012, there were 712 recipients.
It's not known what percentage of applications were rejected in Northumberland County.
Bale said the income guidelines to become eligible for welfare haven't changed under the new law and that the traditional monthly welfare benefits have a five-year limit.
"We believe the initiative is working," she said. "The department strives to find every opportunity we can to provide our clients with the tools they need to become self-sufficient."
TANF has a typical payout of $314 per month to a low-income mother and child.
According to the Inquirer, 196,795 people nationwide were on TANF as of July. That number is down from 536,863 in 1996 when welfare was changed by President Bill Clinton from an entitlement program to a work program funded by federal block grants administered by states.