Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) is a United States federal law passed by the 104th United States Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. The bill implemented major changes to U.S. social welfare policy, replacing the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

The law was a cornerstone of the Republican Party's "Contract with America," and also fulfilled Clinton's campaign promise to "end welfare as we know it." AFDC had come under increasing criticism in the 1980s, especially from conservatives who argued that welfare recipients were "trapped in a cycle of poverty." After the 1994 elections, the Republican-controlled Congress passed two major bills designed to reform welfare, but they were vetoed by Clinton. After negotiations between Clinton and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Congress passed PRWORA and Clinton signed the bill into law on August 22, 1996.

PRWORA granted states greater latitude in administering social welfare programs, and implemented new requirements on welfare recipients, including a five-year lifetime limit on benefits. After the passage of the law, the number of individuals receiving federal welfare dramatically declined. The law was heralded as a "reassertion of America's work ethic" by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, largely in response to the bill's workfare component. Critics have argued that the law unnecessarily damaged the social safety net, increased the poverty rate, and pushed former recipients into low-paying jobs.

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