New York City's welfare caseload has declined dramatically since peaking, in the mid-1990s, just prior to the enactment of a major federal reform implemented locally under two mayors, Rudolph Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg. Although the city's poverty rate rose during the 2007-09 recession, it remains 71 percent below its peak level (under the old welfare rules) of the mid-1990s.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has emphasized his desire to do more to help low-income New Yorkers. He also has signaled his willingness to loosen some restrictions on public assistance, which could affect caseload trends in the future.
During a time of transition for the city's antipoverty efforts, this report benchmarks key long-term measures of dependency and government aid to the poor, including: the number of individuals and families receiving cash assistance; enrollment in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, or "food stamps"); enrollment in the Medicaid health-insurance program for the poor; the extent of receipt of work-related tax credits; and overall changes in the poverty rate.
This report is meant as a prospective standard for future comparison.