The state agency that serves low-income families says welfare cases continue to decline, in spite of the lingering recession. Caseloads are less than half of what they were when welfare reform was initiated nearly two decades ago. Department of Human Services director, Chuck Palmer, says a new lifetime limit on benefits has had an effect.

“I think the five-year expectation of being on has probably placed greater pressure on some individuals and gave greater incentive for them to go to work,” according to Palmer. Welfare caseloads have dropped from 40,000 in 1994 to 16,000 today. Palmer says the decline allows the department to hold the line on its budget.

“That set of policies and initiatives has continued to drive this caseload down. Even through the recession,” Palmer says. “And we’re not asking for any new money in this area next year. We think this one is going to continued to go down.”

The program formally known as “Aid to Families with Dependent Children” is now called the “Family Investment Program” or FIP. The program requires families to prove they’re making progress toward self-sufficiency. Palmer says another factor is Iowa’s aging population, as there are fewer young families overall, and thus fewer families on welfare.