Under federal welfare law, states are given a block of money by the federal government to design and run their welfare programs. Each state decides who qualifies for welfare, how much assistance a family can receive, how long a family can receive assistance and the types of programs that will be available to help welfare recipients. (In some states, like California and Illinois, the welfare programs are run at the county level, so county officials are making these decisions.)
Families can only receive federal welfare benefits for up to five years. A number of states have shortened this time period. In addition, most states have made participation in welfare-to-work programs a condition of receiving welfare benefits unless a person is excused. These time limits and work requirements may pose a problem for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. For example, the time limits are often not long enough for survivors to become self-supporting. Research has shown that domestic and sexual violence keeps many women from successfully participating in and completing training programs and staying in jobs.