By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Monday marks twenty years since the US ended one long-running social services experiment and started a new one. In 1996 President Bill Clinton signed into law a ‘welfare reform’ bill, and despite dire predictions, the reform measure performed well for many years.

Welfare reform gave states broad latitude over cash grants to the poor, known as TANF’s. In Pennsylvania, the state added job search rules over the years. Kristen Dama of Community Legal Services said it hinders access for the families most in need.

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“For families who have zero income, there’s no access to child care, there’s no access to transportation that will facilitate this job search,” she said.

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Dama said the number of people receiving welfare has dropped from nearly half-a-Million in 1996 to about 158-thousand now. But, she said, for too many, it’s not because they’ve entered the work force, but because they can’t get access to TANF’s.

“They can’t navigate this pre-application job search in a way that allows them to get on to the program,” she said.

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Dama recommends the state simplify rules, eliminate red tape and improve employment and training programs to help families leave welfare for work… not deep poverty.