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Before welfare reform in 1996, states were mostly required to give cash assistance to anyone who was eligible — without work requirements or time limits. The amount of money from the federal government varied year to year based on need. After welfare reform, the government capped the program at $16.5 billion dollars. Now, states receive a block grant, and they can choose to spend their federal money as long as it fits within four categories:

The bulk of Pennsylvania's spending — nearly 78 percent, or $901 million — went to the core welfare reform goals of basic assistance, work support and activities and child care in 2016, with a heavy emphasis on child care. While not a driving component of its spending, Pennsylvania was the first state to permit the use of federal welfare funds for an anti-abortion group, Real Alternatives, which has set up crisis pregnancy centers in the state and has since expanded to Indiana and Michigan.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Note: Single-year labels represent two-year averages; for example '2016' represents '2015-2016'.

Did You Know?

In 2016, Pennsylvania spent nearly 78% of its funds on the core ideas behind welfare reform: basic assistance, child care, and support for work.

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