20 years of Welfare Reform, is it working? A local woman shares her story

CLEVELAND, Ohio - Thirteen years ago, Marianne Sirotzki finally caught a break.

“I had got on cash assistance. I used them back to back because I wasn't able to find a job," she sai.d

But after a year, the single mom of 3 was taken off the program, leaving her helpless when she's needed it the most.

“I was working until I had him...It kind of hurts in the long run because if you hit hard times and you're in those hard times, what do you do?"

Her story is not unlike many in the US since Bill Clinton's welfare reform was implemented in 1996. Today marks 20-years since the welfare system dramatically changed.

“We're talking about people who many of whom were really in that hardcore unemployed, had never really worked a regular job,” said Newschannel 5’s political anaylist Tom Sutton from Baldwin Wallace University.

The current system is called "temporary assistance for needy families." it requires that people meet a range of strict requirements to get help. So is it working two decades later?

“A lot of people simply left the system because they were no longer eligible, they didn't leave because necessarily they got better jobs," Sutton said. 

Some argue it's only perpetuated a growing problem.

"If the goal was to reduce the number of people on welfare getting government assistance, mission accomplished, however if the goal was to reduce poverty...the record is much more mixed," said Sutton.

Today the "Manhattan Institute for Policy Research” released data that found the reform has encouraged people to provide for themselves.

On the other hand, a 2011 study by the University of Michigan found families living on less than $2 per person a day more than doubled since 1996.

"It has not been on people's radar,” Sutton expressed. “You see it in high poverty areas, inner city areas, you see it in rural areas. The majority of people actually receiving welfare benefits are in fact Caucasian, not African American and Latino as people think."

Sirotzki said she's again in need, but this time, she doesn't have welfare and has to make it on her own.

"A lot of people have the misconception that a lot of people on welfare just want to sit and not do anything, but it's not like that, it’s hard, it’s a struggle."

To make ends meet Sirotzki receives food stamps and help from local churches and the Merrick House in Tremont. She also said she’s actively looking for work.

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