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Conservatives aren’t satisfied, either - arguing that in many ways the first reforms did not go far enough.

Combined federal and state government spending in fiscal 2011 will be around $470 billion on means-tested programs to families, Heritage Foundation analyst Robert Rector told a House hearing in April. If that sum was divided among 14 million families, “the result would be around $33,000 per low-income family with children,” he said. He urged Congress to return to prerecession spending levels and permit growth in payments “no faster than inflation.”

Rep. Geoff Davis, the Kentucky Republican who chairs the House Ways and Means subcommittee on human resources, expressed concern that states are doing too little to help welfare recipients find and keep a job. He has announced plans for new hearings on changes to the system.

“Despite significant success since welfare reforms were enacted in the 1990s, in fiscal year 2010, over four in ten TANF families faced no work requirement at all,” Mr. Davis said. “It’s time to ensure that states are taking the necessary steps to help TANF families move up the economic ladder, as the 1996 welfare reform intended.”