At least 22 state programs have let their unemployment insurance reserve funds run down, which could cause a clampdown on eligibility rules just as more workers need help. There are also more low-wage temps and part-timers, who are less likely to be covered.
The 1996 welfare-to-work law imposed a five-year lifetime limit on federal benefits, so more mothers could be without recourse if they can't find work. The law also cut immigrants' access to the program, as well as to food stamps and Medicaid.
Millions of families aren't getting help, in part because welfare reform confused people about eligibility. New rules could fix the problem, but it may be a while until word gets out.
Welfare reform confusion also led to fewer eligible families getting aid, although states now seem to be doing a better job of covering them.
STATE CHILDREN'S HEALTH INSURANCE PROGRAM
The one bright spot, CHIP, which covers low-income kids, has enrolled 3.3 million children since it started in 1997.