Welfare programs pay more than minimum wage in 35 states.
That's according to a new study released this week by the Cato Institute, a Washington-based libertarian think tank. It's an update from its 1995 study that examined the same issues.
Its conclusion this time around, accounting for the changes in the government's 126 separate programs for low-income people, is that government aid can be more than the earnings from a regular, entry-level job. And the pay gap has increased in recent years, the study concludes.
Here are some of its numbers:
Not only do government-assistance programs for the unemployed pay more than minimum wage in 35 states, but they also pay more than a $15-an-hour job, according to the report. Hawaii has the "most generous benefit package," following by the District of Columbia and Massachusetts.
In 11 states, these programs pay more annually than the average teacher after his or her first year on the job. In 39 states, it pays more than a starting salary of a secretary. And the comparisons continue.
In total, the federal government spends $668.2 billion on these programs annually, while states give out another $284 billion, the report finds.
Cato's conclusion? Well, the study tries to prove what the institute and other conservatives and libertarians have argued for years:
If Congress and state legislatures are serious about reducing welfare dependence and rewarding work, they should consider strengthening welfare work requirements, removing exemptions, and narrowing the definition of work.
By making it harder to qualify for these programs and adding more eligibility requirements from the updated 1996 Temporary Assistance for Needy Families law, states can help bridge this gap, the study says.