Welfare caseloads have fallen sharply since the passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), raising questions about the post-welfare experiences of welfare leavers, including whether leavers are participating in Food Stamps and Medicaid when they are eligible for these supports. This paper describes patterns of participation in these two programs for two groups of women who left welfare in Wisconsin, those who left cash welfare in late 1995 (under early welfare reform) and those who left welfare two years later, in the early stages of implementation of Wisconsin Works (W-2), the state’s TANF program.
We use administrative data to examine the receipt of Food Stamps and Medicaid among those who are income-eligible at some point in the first year after exit. These take-up rates vary from 60 percent of the 1995 leavers receiving Food Stamps to 92 percent of the 1997 leavers having someone in their families receiving Medicaid. We also conduct multivariate analyses of take-up. Selected findings include: (1) the take-up of both Medicaid and Food Stamps increased between 1995 and 1997; (2) working while still receiving cash benefits is positively associated with take-up of noncash benefits after the cash grant ends; (3) the take-up of benefits declines substantially over time even among those who remain eligible for them. We examine a longer timeframe for the 1995 leavers and find that the take-up of these benefits declines steadily over the three years. (author abstract)