The late 1990s brought revolutionary changes to the structure and purposes of welfare assistance in the United States. The impact of welfare reform in the states has been profound and lasting. This is the focus of a new book published by the West Virginia University Press entitled,Welfare Reform in West Virginia.

Written by a team of scholars who have been studying the effects of welfare reform in the Mountain State, the book provides a comprehensive overview of the impact of sweeping state and federal reforms that have altered the face of welfare policy, programs and systems.Welfare Reform in West Virginiaprovides both depth and perspective to the study of reform in this important and often controversial area of public policy.

The history of welfare policy in the United States has been marked by conflict, debate and calls for sweeping reforms to improve the design and delivery of assistance to the needy.In its most recent iteration, welfare reform has concentrated on”work first”strategies aimed at requiring those receiving cash assistance to be engaged in work or training activities.A new federal welfare law adopted in 1996 fundamentally changed welfare systems and practices across the United States.

Nowhere was this change more keenly felt than in West Virginia. West Virginia is a rural state that has long faced poor economic conditions. Consequently, meeting the new demands of a new welfare law which limits eligibility, imposes work requirements and caps the amount of federal dollars to be used for assistance has been challenging.

The authors recount how the state and those in the welfare system were affected by welfare reform.Using in-depth survey data, the authors examine how West Virginia’s most needy fared in the wake of reform.Those who left the welfare rolls because of new program requirements and expectations often found themselves and their families in difficult circumstances facing challenging prospects for income and employment.

The book also assesses the efficacy of job-training programs and welfare reform’s effects on other social services.Welfare Reform in West Virginiaexplores the dynamics and evolution of federal-state relations in welfare policy and reveals how short-term administrative responses may not always serve long-term public interests.

According to Melissa Latimer, one of the book’s authors,West Virginians have experienced multiple socioeconomic hardships for many years, and these hardships make West Virginia an especially interesting place for testing welfare reforms efficacy in helping recipients leave and stay off welfare.

In short, the lessons from West Virginia extend beyond the state’s borders and should be understood by anyone interested in welfare policy at the state and national level. This should be the case especially for those who are interested in welfare reform in rural areas.Given that one-third of the nation’s welfare recipients live in rural areas and that the challenges of finding employment, childcare and transportation are particularly daunting in these areas, examining welfare reform in this context is crucial to our understanding of this complex subject, Latimer said.

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