AFDC was created during the Great Depression to alleviate the burden of poverty of families with children and allow widowed mothers to maintain their households. Prior to the New Deal, anti-poverty programs were primarily operated by private charities or state or local governments; however, these programs were overwhelmed by the depth of need during the Depression. The United States has no national program of cash assistance for non-disabled poor individuals who are not raising children. The exception to this is permanent alimony, which is still administered in a handful of states including New Jersey, Florida and Oregon. Alimony Reform movements in these states are attempting to end this form of private welfare.
In 1996, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act changed the structure of Welfare payments and added new criteria to states that received Welfare funding. After reforms, which President Clinton said would "end Welfare as we know it", amounts from the federal government were given out in a flat rate per state based on population. Each state must meet certain criteria to ensure recipients are being encouraged to work themselves out of Welfare. The new program is called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families . It encourages states to require some sort of employment search in exchange for providing funds to individuals, and imposes a five-year lifetime limit on cash assistance. In FY 2010, 31.8% of TANF families were white, 31.9% were African-American, and 30.0% were Hispanic. up from 14.3% in 2009 and to its highest level since 1993. In 2008, 13.2% Americans lived in relative poverty.
In a 2011 op-ed in Forbes, Peter Ferrara stated that, "The best estimate of the cost of the 185 federal means tested Welfare programs for 2010 for the federal government alone is nearly $700 billion, up a third since 2008, according to the Heritage Foundation. Counting state spending, total Welfare spending for 2010 reached nearly $900 billion, up nearly one-fourth since 2008 ". California, with 12% of the U.S. population, has one-third of the nation's welfare recipients.
In FY 2011, federal spending on means-tested