Fewer in state on welfare, but food-stamp use, homelessness on rise

The Seattle TimesDecember 16, 2013 

With a massive budget shortfall looming, then-Gov. Chris Gregoire in August 2010 announced major changes to Washington state’s welfare program.

Fewer families would be eligible, with payments smaller and extensions harder to get. Combined with anti-fraud safeguards from lawmakers, the effort was designed to reduce the number of people getting welfare checks from the government.

It worked.

About 43,000 state families received welfare in October — nearly 30,000 fewer than when Gregoire’s changes took effect in early 2011, and the fewest since at least 1990, according to the Office of Financial Management.

State officials estimate the reduced caseload lowered the cost of welfare by more than $600 million between 2011 and 2015.

But it is unclear exactly why the caseload has dropped so far, so fast — especially as other signs of high poverty linger.

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