Block Grants and the Welfare State

Awarded Scholars:
James P. Ziliak, University of Kentucky
Robert A. Moffitt, Johns Hopkins University
Project Date:
Sep 2017
Award Amount:

The election of President Trump and a Republican majority in Congress have led to a renewed push to reform the funding structure of social welfare programs. Using Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) as a model, some Republicans propose to block grant Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Currently, these programs are financed either wholly by federal funds (SNAP and SSI) or by a federal-state matching grant (Medicaid). Economists James Ziliak and Robert Moffitt will examine the fiscal federalism issues surrounding the social safety net to answer three questions: 1) What have been the trends in the level and composition of state and federal safety net expenditures since 1996? 2) How are state safety net spending, benefit levels, and state policy choices correlated with state characteristics and funding mechanisms? 3) What are the mechanisms to make block grants more responsive to the needs of recipients? 


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