Low-income Americans face bewildering bureaucratic requirements when they try to obtain welfare benefits. One of the challenges is that they have to frequently re-apply for benefits because the state needs to know whether their incomes are still low enough form them to remain eligible. This moving in and out of benefits is called churn, and Dottie Rosenbaum of the left-wing Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has written an interesting paper discussing the challenges in measuring and understanding it:
States renew Medicaid and CHIP eligibility once a year, as federal rules require, and federal rules have changed to require a minimum eligibility period of 12 months for child care. Many states still review SNAP eligibility every six months……
States are allowed to recertify eligibility of elderly and disabled households for SNAP every 24 months.
There is trade-off here: If people have too much hassle re-applying for fragmented benefits they might not get them and that will cost taxpayers more down the road. On the other hand, welfare that depends on income demands some burden of re-certifying eligibility on the recipient.
NCPA recently published an analysis of the bewildering array of federally funded safety-net programs, and recommended that state, local, and civic agencies be able to apply for block grants that consolidate funding from multiple programs. This would also reduce the challenge of churn, as applicants would be able to re-certify eligibility at one agency.