Issue 9: Welfare Reform

Goal: Assess the unique impact of welfare reform on rural Alaska and develop collaborative strategies to mitigate any negative impact.


There is a need to assess the unique impact of welfare reform on rural communities. These communities may not have the necessary resource base to successfully implement the changes required under welfare reform. As a result, the ability of rural residents to meet basic life needs may be seriously and negatively impacted by welfare reform.

The Alaska Temporary Assistance Program and corresponding federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program, require a shift from public assistance to work activities for current and future welfare recipients. There may not be adequate jobs available in rural communities, however, to accommodate welfare to work requirements. Some residents may need to relocate from villages to rural hub communities and urban centers to find jobs. In addition, there is a lack of child care resources in rural areas to support the move from welfare to work; this will place an increased burden on extended families in rural communities to provide needed child care services.

Other aspects of welfare reform will also impact rural communities. Many rural residents, including immigrants, children with serious emotional disorders, and people with alcohol/drug disabilities, have lost Social Security Insurance assistance due to recent changes in this federal program. In many cases, the affected groups have also lost Adult Public Assistance support and Medicaid coverage. Some rural residents have also lost eligibility for the federal Food Stamp program.

There is a great concern about the potential cumulative impact of welfare reform initiatives on rural communities. A substantial number of rural residents will experience the stress of losing their current economic safety net, combined with increased pressure to find work which may not be available in their home communities. With less formalized support services than in urban areas, rural communities will be forced to rely more heavily on families and informal community supports to accommodate the changes required by welfare reform. There is a strong possibility that this increased family and community stress will lead to higher rates of family violence, sexual assault, alcoholism and suicide. There will also likely be a much greater need and demand for mental health services to assist community members in coping with these increased life stresses.


177. Conduct an assessment/study of the differential impact of welfare reform on rural communities, including the following elements:

178. Pursue funding from the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority to conduct the above study.
Responsible party: Department of Health and Social Services, Alaska Mental Health Board

179. Based on the results of the study, implement specific strategies to address the impact of welfare reform on rural communities. These strategies might include:

180. Provide increased educational information to rural communities on the scope and details of welfare reform changes. An emphasis should be place on building partnerships between state, regional and local entities in planning and providing the training activities.
Responsible party: Division of Public Assistance, regional Native corporations, local governments and tribal councils