WASHINGTON -- The government reported on Wednesday a continued but modest decline in the number of new welfare caseloads, five years after Congress enacted a program to move recipients from welfare to work.
Between September 2000 and March 2001, the number of families receiving temporary assistance declined 3 percent to about 2.1 million, according to figures released by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Overall there has been a dramatic 57 percent drop in the number of welfare cases since Congress enacted welfare reform in August 1996, officials said. This represents nearly 7 million fewer recipients.
But the 3 percent national decline for the latest six-month period reflected a slowdown in the drop-off rate, a trend some experts attributed to the faltering national economy. Former welfare recipients who have gone to work often have been among the first employees to be laid off.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson put a positive spin on the national statistics.
"While the caseload numbers are encouraging, the real news is that welfare reform is moving more people into work so that they can support themselves and their families," Thompson said. "Welfare reform has helped an unprecedented number of people on welfare to become self-supporting."
Figures for individual welfare recipients, as compared with families, showed a decline of 4.4 percent for the latest half-year period, down to about 5.4 million people.
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