Welfare reform has transformed a needs-based family income support into temporary assistance for persons entering the workforce. This paper uses observations from an ethnographic study covering the period from 1995- 2001 to examine the impact on drug-using welfare-needy households in inner-city New York. The analysis suggests that studies may underestimate the extent to which substance use is associated with welfare problems. Nearly all of these already distressed households lost their AFDC/TANF benefits, had difficulty with work programs, and were having more difficulty covering expenses. The conclusion highlights ways to better study this population and policy initiatives that could help them reform their impoverished lives for themselves and their children.

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