In 1996, the U.S. Congress passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunities Reconciliation Act creating the most recent welfare reform and the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program. Unlike Aid to Families with Dependent Children, which was an income-based entitlement program, with TANF came time limits, sanctions for noncompliance, and requirements that recipients participate in "work or work-related activities." TANF is also a block grant program. As a result, not only did program requirements change, but they can now vary from state to state. This article provides a regional context for this special issue of Southern Rural Sociology by examining regional patterns in the provision of cash assistance. The South has a history of lower benefits and lower spending for cash assistance while at the same time having higher rates of poverty and persistent poverty. Under TANF, these regional patterns remain.

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