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Institute for Policy Studies

Report Info

  • Released December 7, 2009
Cities for Progress » Report

Battered by the Storm: How the Safety Net Is Failing Americans and How to Fix It

The economic crisis is still on the rise for millions of Americans, while at the same time the social safety net is failing to support many of them.

The national study, Battered by the Storm: How the Safety Net Is Failing Americans and How to Fix It, concludes that the economic crisis is still on the rise for millions of Americans, while at the same time the social safety net is failing to support many of them. It offers one of the boldest, most comprehensive plans to combat poverty and unemployment — beginning now.

Among the study’s key findings:

  • Levels of long-term unemployment, underemployment and discouraged workers are reaching historic levels;
  • The percentage of poor children receiving temporary assistance under TANF (the main federal “welfare” program) has fallen from 62% in 1995 to 22% in 2008;
  • TANF benefits are far from sufficient to support the families that depend on them: 2008 assistance payments averaged only 29% of the money needed to bring families up to the official poverty line;
  • Even while labor force participation of mothers has increased, the supply of affordable child care has lagged behind, creating a significant barrier to employment for many, especially single mothers; and
  • Roughly 57% of unemployed people are receiving unemployment compensation; for those receiving benefits, amounts are less than half of wages, and many are losing work-related health benefits.

The social safety net has eroded over the past 30 years, failing millions of Americans. Short-term fixes such as the Recovery Act are rescuing only a small percentage of those who need help.