The Path of Welfare Reform
August 31st, 2007

In 1995, then Mayor Rudolph Guiliani enacted expansive welfare reforms that tightened welfare eligibility requirements and expanded a “workfare” program called the Work Experience Program. In order to receive benefits, workers needed to seek and find work. By the time he left office, the welfare rolls had been more than halved.

But this initiative was an anomaly at the time, and it happened a year before federal reforms changed the nation. For such a thing to happen in a large urban environment made it all the more exceptional. So why did this happen here?

John Krinsky, an assistant professor at City College, writes in the Urban Affairs Review that events and actors outside of the city had a lot to do with it, and those actors turned around and used the example of New York to further change the face of welfare nationally.

On the local front, the city faced a budgetary crisis, had a mayor with an ideological predisposition to trim welfare rolls and held increased power due to a recent City Charter Amendment. Furthermore, the administration faced weakened opposition such as public unions crippled by previous layoffs.

But those reasons alone are not adequate enough an explanation for Krinksy. Although he concedes that a confluence of local factors played a key role in the early adaption in welfare reform, the professor goes on to attribute a larger role to a broad network of public and independent actors that broke geographical boundaries.

He points to a coalition of groups that bled through local boundaries that could boost inadequate local sentiment for change. Among these influences he includes international real estate investors with properties in the city, global bond rating firms, state-level actors such as the governor and suburban lawmakers, and a national political climate.

In later years, Giuliani brought in national contractors and staff with experience in welfare reform outside of New York City. This, Krinsky writes, further integrated the city in national welfare reform currents, cementing it as part of a larger movement and increasing its efficacy.

When Mayor Michael Bloomberg took over and did not retain the same welfare players, they took their experience in New York to the federal level under the Bush Administration, he says. This brought the reform movement full circle, and now, a version of the “New York Model” is part of federal law,’ the author writes.

By on August 31, 2007, 8:28 am
In category: Social Services | 4 Comments »

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4 Responses to “The Path of Welfare Reform”

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    March 20th, 2013 at 1:53 pm

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