(The Heritage Foundation) The federal government runs over 70 different means-tested anti-poverty programs that provide cash, food, housing, medical care, and social services to poor and low-income persons. These means-tested programs—including food stamps, public housing, low-income energy assistance, and Medicaid—pay the bills and meet the physical needs of tens of millions of low-income families. However, these programs do not help the recipients move from a position of dependence on the government to being able to provide for themselves.
Only one welfare program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), promotes greater self-reliance. The reform that created TANF in the mid-1990s moved 2.8 million families off the welfare rolls and into jobs so that they were providing for themselves. Regrettably, while the TANF reform was successful, no other federal welfare programs have been reformed along similar lines. The TANF reform could serve as a partial model of reform for other programs for the poor.