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Buying Time for Survivors of Domestic Violence: A Proposal for Implementing an Exception to Welfare Time Limits

NCJ Number
New York University Law Review Volume: 73 Issue: 2 Dated: May 1998 Pages: 621-666
Jennifer M. Mason
Jonathan Pickhardt
Date Published
46 pages
In discussing the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation (PRWOR) Act of 1996, which replaced the Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC) program with block grants to help States design their own assistance programs, this legal note concludes that States can and should implement exceptions to the PRWOR Act to benefit survivors of domestic violence.
To meet the goal of welfare reform, States must balance programs that transition benefit recipients into the workplace with programs that provide support for those who cannot yet become independent, such as those trapped in the cycle of domestic violence. The PRWOR Act established a 60-month cap on benefits, based on the view that time-limited welfare benefits will encourage self-sufficiency. Whatever the effect of such a gap is in general, it may cause great harm to survivors of domestic violence because of their diminished capacity to enter the workforce successfully. Therefore, States should create an exception regime characterized by the encouragement of applications, confidentiality guarantees to applicants, simple application procedures and low standards of proof, broad categories of admissible evidence, expedited decision making, and availability of review. An overview of the AFDC program and provisions of the PRWOR Act are reviewed. 241 footnotes