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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Welfare caseloads are on the rise across the country, as they have been here in Washington State. According to a new survey conducted by the Wall Street Journal and the National Conference of State Legislatures, 23 of the 30 largest states in the nation saw caseloads increase over the past year for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF).

One explanation for the increase in TANF caseloads is the rising unemployment rate. As people’s unemployment benefits run out and the labor market remains constricted, some are turning to welfare as a stopgap until the economy improves.

As the WSJ map below shows, the biggest increases in TANF caseloads are in states with some of the worst joblessness. For example, Oregon’s caseloads were up by 27 percent in May from the previous year. At the same time, the state’s unemployment rate had risen to 12.4 percent. Here in Washington State, TANF caseloads jumped by more than 18 percent between May 2008 and 2009. Unemployment steadily climbed during that time period to 9.4 percent.

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