Case Teaching Resources FROM THE EVANS SCHOOL OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS
Box 353060 · University of Washington · Seattle WA 98195-3060 www.hallway.org
WELFARE REFORM IN WASHINGTON STATE (A)
Clare Banks, assistant to the director of the WorkFirst division at the Washington Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), looked up from the WorkFirst evaluation she was reading and reflected on the changes in the welfare system during her fifteen years with the agency. Welfare had always been a controversial issue. As federal and state policymakers evaluated and reevaluated the mission and goals of welfare provision, minor changes to the state’s welfare system were attempted. Efforts to build the human capital of welfare recipients met with little success, and, under Governor Mike Lowry, few changes were made to Washington’s welfare system. All that changed in 1996, when President Clinton’s promise to “end welfare as we know it” was realized through passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), fundamentally changing the welfare system nationwide.
PRWORA eliminated the old Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program and replaced it with a Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) block grant, giving states the funds to design and implement their own plan to help move families from welfare to work. Under Governor Lowry, the transition was essentially stalled. In 1996, however, Gary Locke was elected and, in April of 1997, Governor Locke signed into law House Bill 3901, creating the WorkFirst program. Washington was the last state to implement a TANF plan.
Governor Locke counted welfare reform among his greatest accomplishments. Since the implementation of the state’s TANF plan, state spending on welfare had been reduced by nearly half and the proportion of the state’s population receiving welfare was at its lowest level in thirty years.
After passage of the state’s TANF plan, Governor...