Under Mayor de Blasio, New York City has essentially abandoned welfare reform

Back in the bad old days through the late 80s and early 90s, the welfare situation in this country was out of control. In New York City the problem was cast in harsh relief, with the cash recipient welfare rolls swelling to more than 1.1 million people. In some parts of the city it had become a generational culture… a “way of life” if you will, which was passed on from parents to children. In one of the things that Bill Clinton got right, he famously declared that we were going to see “the end of welfare as we know it” and those policies were vigorously embraced by mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg to their credit. Welfare to Work programs were put in place with mandatory sanctions for failing to comply with system requirements. Amazingly, all of those people who simply couldn’t find jobs apparently did so in droves and the welfare rolls were slashed to roughly 20% of what they were at their peak.


Then came Mayor Bill de Blasio. He had a lot of new ideas and liberals around the country were celebrating his progressive vision. One of the writers at The Nation cheered these moves in 2014, describing just the sort of changes Bill was pushing through.

HRA spokesperson David Neustadt explains via e-mail that the reform agenda prioritizes “increasing the number of clients in training and education programs” as well as “lowering the rate of return to cash assistance” for those placed in jobs, and getting them higher-paying positions.

HRA plans to overhaul its “sanction” system, which metes out penalties for “non-compliance” with welfare-to-work program rules, potentially leading to the termination of benefits. Clients will get more leeway to challenge what they see as unfair sanctions.

If you read that closely you’ll get a sense of some of the “progress” that de Blasio was planning. Rather than needing to be going to an actual job or enrolled in a program that led to apprenticeship for real work, the new rules would allow “full time students” (which almost any quasi-educational program could qualify for and were almost impossible to track) to qualify for full cash benefits. They were also going to essentially do away with penalties for things like missing appointments or taking the other steps required to qualify for or remain on welfare. How that was designed to result in “lowering the rate of return to cash assistance” was a mystery to many observers.


By March of this year, the results were already coming into focus, as reported by Time Warner Cable News 1 at the time.

The number of New Yorkers on welfare is reportedly on the rise, with about 13,000 more people being added to the rolls during the mayor’s first year in office.

The New York Post is reporting that the cash assistance program swelled by 4 percent in 2014.

According to an advanced look at the “Poverty and Progress in New York” report, the jump comes the same year the city added around 90,000 jobs.

There’s a key figure in that news report which should not be overlooked. After decades of being kept under control, including throughout the massive recession we underwent after 2007, the welfare rolls began rapidly swelling after the recovery began and when tens of thousands of new jobs were created in the city.

The trend hasn’t shifted in the last eight months and the NY Post has an editorial this week describing just how bad it’s gotten.

As The Post’s Rich Calder reported Friday, the city’s welfare rolls in October reached a nine-year high of 373,504, up nearly 8 percent since de Blasio took office…

Under Giuliani, that meant requiring able-bodied welfare recipients to seek work and helping them do so — policies Bloomberg continued, leading to a 70 percent cut in the welfare rolls.

But de Blasio and Banks see no difference between earning money from an employer and collecting it from the taxpayers, calling that “an ideological hang-up.”

They’re wedded to reviving a culture where finding someone a job makes less sense than providing ineffective “education and training,” where requiring any sort of personal responsibility is “demeaning.”


Bill de Blasio has turned the clock back figuratively and ramped the welfare numbers up literally toward the peak of the problem twenty or more years ago. These exact same failed policies are what brought us to that sorry state of affairs and it was only the tough changes which were put in place during the reform era which began to break the cycle of dependency and increase employment. Turning the city back over to a firebrand liberal has produced predictable results. We’re now back up to nearly 400K people on the dole, with more signing on as the word spreads that City Hall is no longer asking any questions. All the Big Apple needs is a couple more years of de Blasio and we should be back to the days of old with a million people on welfare.

Good time, liberals… good times.

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