How Do Welfare Benefits Vary by State?

Welfare benefits differ by state in terms of the amount of cash assistance given, how people can use the cash, different income thresholds and other eligibility rules. As of 2014, states such as Hawaii and Massachusetts pay more than the minimum wage to residents on welfare.

As of 2015, many states have lowered welfare benefits and changed eligibility rules in order to alleviate budget deficit issues. Differences in eligibility rules are seen in the rates of residents on welfare by state. The highest rates of people on welfare are in states on the West Coast and upper Northeast. Texas and Florida, on the other hand, have a lower income eligibility threshold, making many poor families unable to receive welfare benefits.

Although a federal law prohibits using welfare benefits at certain establishments such as liquor stores, many states impose even stricter rules on similar activities such as gambling and buying alcohol or tobacco. Some states prohibit buying guns, whereas others do not allow spending on jewelry, tattoos and bail bonds. Even though some states allow residents on welfare to make cash withdrawals, they limit the amount of cash a person can withdraw each day.

Arizona limits the amount of time a person can be on welfare to 12 months, the lowest in the United States. Most states, on the other hand, have a five-year limit on benefits. Maine requires people to work or volunteer to be eligible for welfare benefits.