Volume 73, Number 2

May 1998

Buying Time for Survivors of Domestic Violence: A Proposal for Implementing an Exception to Welfare Time Limits

Jennifer M. Mason

With the passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (Personal Responsibility Act), states have unprecedented discretion in fashioning their social welfare programs. The Personal Responsibility Act eliminated the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program and replaced it with block grants for states to use in designing their own assistance programs. States therefore have a substantial opportunity to impact the lives of America’s poorest families. The Act, however, imposes some restrictions on the states as a condition for receiving the money. Particularly notable is the Act’s prohibition on state provision of benefits to any family that includes an adult who has received assistance for sixty months over her lifetime. The Personal Responsibility Act also contains guidelines that are merely discretionary on the part of the states. This Note discusses two such options, both exceptions to the sixty-month rule. First, the Act allows a state to exempt a family from the sixty-month limitation “by reason of hardship or if the family includes an individual who has been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty.” Second, the Act allows a state to waive time limits where the family includes an individual who has been victimized by or is at risk of domestic violence.