Whether or not families and individuals qualify for welfare depends on several factors, including income, size of family and emergency situations like homelessness, hospital visits and teenage pregnancy. Welfare requirements vary among states and from case to case. When considered for welfare, individuals and families receive a documented case, which undergoes evaluation by a case worker to determine eligibility for welfare designation.
In the United States, welfare assistance began during the 1930s in response to dire economic circumstances surrounding the Great Depression. During the Depression, the national government felt the strain of many people and families with no income and in need of basic necessities. In response, the government established the national federal welfare program to provide needy families with basic items like food, shelter and clothing.
The welfare program remained in control of the federal government for more than a half century, but eventually wound up under state control. Although beneficial for some, the welfare program receives criticism from others over alleged abuse by people whose qualifications do not meet national criteria. Welfare services vary among the states, but typically include food stamps, transportation, child care and housing assistance. People apply for welfare through a formal application process, which determines eligibility for short or long term welfare assistance.