There are many states that have adopted wide-ranging policies concerning how long an individual can obtain welfare benefits. Time limits range from 24 months to 60 months. Only a few states have no time limits. All states allow exceptions to time limits within their policies.
There are 40 states which have time limits that can result in the termination of welfare benefits. All states have exemptions or extensions. Exemptions usually cover cases where children don't live with their natural parents because of a parent's death or assignment to foster parents and people with medical problems. In many states, individuals who can’t find jobs can get extensions. Once legislation was passed to implement welfare time limits, each state had to create a program to phase welfare recipients in. This date was known as a start date or initiation date. Arkansas and Arizona were the first states to implement their programs in 1996.
States with 60-Month Limits
There are 32 states that have 60-month lifetime limits on transitional assistance benefits. Once the 60-month limit is reached, the state either closes the assistance case or removes the adult from the assistance program. Those states are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and South Dakota. The District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico also follow the 60-month limit.
States with 48-Month Time Limits
The states of Florida and Georgia have 48-month lifetime limits for welfare assistance. As in most states, if an individual becomes noncompliant, their welfare assistance case is automatically closed. When that happens, the case has to be totally reopened and reviewed by the state welfare board.
States with 24-Month Time Limits
The state of Arkansas has the most aggressive welfare reform program in the United States. Arkansas is the only state with a 24-month lifetime limit. After the 24-month limit expires, the individual has to reapply for benefits through the state welfare commission and start a new case file, a process that can range from one to three months.
States with No Time Limits
Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska and Oregon have no lifetime limits for individuals receiving welfare assistance. In the state of Oregon, a time limit can be imposed on noncompliant cases. However, these four states have developed flexible programs concerning workforce development and they use a portion of welfare funding and benefits for business and economic development.