Major Welfare Reforms Enacted in 1996

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Major Welfare Reforms Enacted in 1996*

During the second session of the 104th Congress, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (Public Law (P.L.) 104-193) was enacted into law on August 22, 1996. Reversing the policy in effect for over 60 years, the Act repealed the open-ended Federal entitlement program known as Aid to Families with Dependent Children, replacing it with a new program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, which will provide block grants to States to be spent on time-limited cash assistance. The comprehensive legislation also made far-reaching changes to child care, the Food Stamp program, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for children, benefits for legal immigrants, and the Child Support Enforcement Program. Modifications to child nutrition programs and a reduction in the Social Services Block Grant also were included in the new Act. Current law remains in force for other child welfare and child protection programs.

Highlights of changes in Social Security law will be examined along with the major provisions enacted in social welfare programs.

Social Security Provisions

Limited Eligibility of Noncitizens

Social Security benefits.-The payment of Social Security benefits to any noncitizen in the United States who is not lawfully present (as determined by the U.S. Attorney General), is prohibited unless the payment of benefits is made pursuant to a totalization agreement or treaty obligation. This provision is effective for benefits based on applications filed after the month of enactment.

Supplemental Security Income benefits.-SSI eligibility is denied for all noncitizens except the following:

refugees (in the first 5 years after their arrival in the United States);

asylees (in the first 5 years after the date they are granted asylum);

noncitizens who have had deportation withheld under the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) section 243(h) (in the first 5 years after the date their deportations are withheld);

certain active duty Armed Forces personnel, honorably discharged veterans, and their spouses and dependent children; and

lawful permanent residents who are credited with 40 quarters of coverage for Social Security purposes. An individual will be credited with all quarters of coverage earned by his or her parent during the period the individual was under age 18, and a married individual (including widow(er)s) with all quarters of coverage earned by his or her spouse during the marriage. However, for quarters earned after December 31, 1996, a quarter will not count as one of the required 40 if the noncitizen, or person whose quarters are being credited to the noncitizen, received federally funded public assistance during the quarter the work was done.

The above provisions are effective upon enactment (August 22, 1996). The Commissioner of Social Security is required to notify all potentially affected beneficiaries on the SSI rolls of this provision by March 31, 1997, and to redetermine the eligibility of all noncitizens on the SSI rolls at the time of enactment who do not meet the new eligibility categories by August 1997. If a noncitizen is not in one of the exempt categories previously listed, his or her eligibility will end as of the date of the redetermination decision.

Deeming of sponsors' incomes and resources.-When determining SSI eligibility, the income and resources of the sponsors (and sponsors' spouses) are deemed to the noncitizen until citizenship is attained, with the following exception:

Deeming will end before citizenship in the case of lawful permanent residents who earn 40 quarters of coverage. Deeming for children and spouses of workers can also end before citizenship if they are credited with 40 quarters; that is, an individual would be credited with all quarters of coverage earned by his or her parent during the period the individual was under age 18, and a married individual (including a widow(er)) would be credited with all quarters of coverage earned by his or her spouse during the marriage. …