The Dec. 26 editorial "Less Poverty, Sharper Pain" about welfare reform said, "No one quite knows what is happening to the people, either those now off the rolls or those still on." That is untrue.

Studies by states and by organizations such as the Urban Institute have found that more people are working, earnings are up and poverty is down. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in its 1999 annual report to Congress on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families concurred. Success of welfare reform cannot be measured by caseload decline alone.

The editorial also spoke of "the weakening of the safety net. Of families with children that remain poor," it said, "fewer are receiving cash assistance -- welfare."

Fewer families receiving cash assistance does not indicate a weakening of the safety net. Fewer families receiving cash assistance was one of the goals of welfare reform. Coincident with this decline is an increased commitment by governors to provide services to help individuals attain and retain employment. States are using federal funds and their own dollars on child care assistance, job training, substance abuse treatment and transportation assistance.

Finally, the editorial said, "Many states appear to have reduced their own spending on the poor." This also is false. States are required under federal law to maintain their own spending at historical levels. So even though the number of people receiving welfare has declined dramatically, states still are required to spend at least 80 percent of their historical level of welfare spending. Every state has met this requirement.


Senior Policy Analyst

National Governors' Association