Changing Safety Net of Last Resort: Downsizing General Assistance for Employable Adults

Steven G Anderson, Anthony P. Halter, Brian M. Gryzlak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


General assistance (GA) has served as an income support program of last resort for people not eligible for other programs. Because each state has complete discretion to design its program, the GA services model parallels Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) in its reliance on decentralized government decision making. Thus, GA programs can provide lessons about services variability and common program features that have arisen in a decentralized income support system. This study examined the characteristics of state GA programs across several program dimensions -eligibility criteria, work requirements, time limits, administrative arrangements, and caseloads. The authors show that GA programs have changed from 1989 to 1998. Although most states retained GA programs in some form, caseloads declined as a result of tightening eligibility requirements for people considered employable. This casts doubt on the viability of GA as a safety net program for economically vulnerable people, including those who do not qualify for or exceed time limits under TANF.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)249-258
Number of pages10
JournalSocial work
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2002


  • Cash assistance
  • General assistance
  • Poverty
  • TANF
  • Welfare reform

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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