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Number on Welfare Rolls Inching Up

April 05, 2001|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — After six years of decline, the number of Americans on welfare has begun to rise in about a dozen states and has stopped falling in most others.

Caseloads are still dropping in 12 states, and the national total is still creeping down, but for most of the country, it appears that the days of ever-shrinking welfare rolls have come to an end.

"The people who could go to work have gone to work," said Rita Dobrich, a welfare administrator in West Virginia, where caseloads rose by about 8% over the last year after plummeting 70%.

Officials fear the situation may worsen if the economy weakens.

Nationally, the welfare rolls peaked in 1994 at nearly 14.3 million people, mostly single women and their children. Amid tough new rules and the strongest economy in a generation, they began a dramatic decline, falling further and faster than anyone predicted.

By September 2000, the number of people on welfare had fallen by nearly 60% to fewer than 5.8 million people, according to data that the Department of Health and Human Services plans to release.

Some states, including New York and California, where one in three of the nation's recipients live, are still seeing caseloads drop. As long as caseloads in big states fall, the national number is likely to continue dropping.

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