Welfare (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
Government benefits distributed to impoverished persons to enable them to maintain a minimum standard of well-being.
Providing welfare benefits has been controversial throughout U.S. history. Since the colonial period, government welfare policy has reflected the belief that the indigent are responsible for their poverty, leading to the principle that governmental benefits are a privilege and not a right. Until the Great Depression of the 1930s, state and local governments bore some responsibility for providing assistance to the poor. Generally, such assistance was minimal at best, with church and volunteer agencies providing the bulk of any aid.
The NEW DEAL policies of President FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT included new federal initiatives to help those in poverty. With millions of people unemployed during the 1930s economic depression, welfare assistance was beyond the financial resources of the states. Therefore, the federal government provided funds either directly to recipients or to the states for maintaining a minimum standard of living.
Following the 1930s, federal programs were established that provided additional welfare benefits, including medical care (MEDICAID), public housing, food stamps, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). By the 1960s, however, criticism began to grow that these programs had created a "culture of dependency," which...
(The entire section is 5037 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!