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Welfare Basics Glossary

By U.S. Department of Labor,
Constitution Avenue, NW,
Washington, DC 20210, U.S.A.


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Administration for Children and Families (ACF) - Branch of the Department of Health and Human Services that administers TANF

Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) – Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) is an outdated federal assistance program replaced by TANF.


Block Grant - A financing mechanism that allocates funds based on a formula that uses statistical factors, like population. Block grants limit the amount of federal spending in advance and do not require a state match.


Child-Only Cases - TANF cases in which payment is being made to support the child(ren) only, including citizen children of undocumented parents.


Department of Social Services (DSS) - State department administrating welfare, social services, community care licensing and disability evaluation.


Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) - The EITC is a subsidy to low-wage workers. This policy essentially makes a minimum wage job paying $4.25 worth $6.00 an hour for a family with two or more children. Together with food stamps, the expanded EITC can lift families with full-time workers out of poverty.

Emergency Assistance (EA) - Provides assistance to families with children in order to cover emergency needs including homelessness, eviction or utility shut-off.

Entitlement - An individual entitilement means that any person or family that meets specified eligibility requirements is eligible for benefits.


Food Stamps - With benefits that are entirely federally funded, the food stamp program provides vouchers to purchase food to people who meet income and assets guidelines.


Health and Human Services - United States government's principal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services.


Job Opportunity and Basic Skills (JOBS) Program - Administered by the Department of Health and Human Services, JOBS is the centerpiece of the 1988 Family Support Act. Its primary objective is to enroll welfare recipients in education and training programs.


Medicaid - The federally funded and state-administered program that provides medical benefits for certain low-income people in need of health and medical care.

Mental Disability/Handicap - People with a significantly sub-average general intellectual functioning that is accompanied by significant limitations in adaptive functioning in at least two of the following skills areas: communication, self care, home living, social or interpersonal skills, use of community resources, self direction, functional academic skills, work, leisure, health and safety.

Mental Disorder - Clinically significant behavioral or psychological syndrome that occurs in an individual and is associated with present distress (e.g., a painful symptom) or disability(i.e., impairment in one or more important areas of functioning)with a significantly increased risk of suffering death, pain, disability or an important loss of freedom.


Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) - The Welfare Reform Law of August 22, 1996. The law converted the old AFDC system to one that gives block grants to states for their welfare programs. It also included new laws for child support enforcement and for childcare.


Safety Net - The concept that the federal government should unconditionally provide for and take care of the poor.

Social Development - The ultimate objective of social development is to bring about sustained improvement in the well-being of the individual, family, community and society at large. The reduction or eradication of mass poverty, inequality and conditions of underdevelopment are widely accepted indicators of social progress. The dimensions of social development are: social welfare; health; education; housing; urban and rural development; and land reform.

Social Relief - Measures taken by welfare agencies for rendering temporary material assistance to individuals or families in crisis until they regain their independence.

Social Security - Policies that ensure that all people have adequate economic and social protection during unemployment, ill health, maternity, child rearing, widowhood, disability and old age, by means of contributory schemes for providing for their basic needs.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) - Provides cash benefits to low-income elderly people and low-income people with disabilities


Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) - TANF is the state-level, time-limited program for welfare families. It replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and emphasizes moving recipients off welfare rolls through rapid entry into the work force.

Time Limits - Time limits are designed to convert welfare into a transitional system designed to provide short-term financial, educational, and social support for families in need of such assistance and minimum-wage jobs for families who exhausted their transitional support.

Transitional Benefits - Transitional benefits provide continued support after cash assistance ends.


Welfare to Work - A national strategy focused on engaging community leaders to assist in the local transformation of the old welfare system of dependence to a new system of coordinated services, job opportunities, personal responsibility and strong connections between community development and business development goals.

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Source: https://www.dol.gov/.../Glossary.asp?GlossaryCategoryID=2

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