New York State has a new record-low welfare enrollment. There were 541,503 on the dole at the end of February, the lowest number since 1963, as state welfare officials announced neatly in sync with tax day. While the city has been posting similar trends for the last several years, this marks the state's first big milestone. The state secret? In addition to benefiting from welfare shrinkage in the five boroughs — the city makes up the bulk of the state's welfare cases — state officials are pointing to $665 million paid out via the state's Earned Income Tax Credit, which is available to working poor filing federal or state taxes, plus a new state credit for low-income, non-custodial parents up-to-date on child support.
"Thanks to the economic supports that can supplement a low-wage job, such as Medicaid, food stamps, and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), it is becoming possible for families not only to leave welfare but to move out of poverty," said state welfare commissioner David Hansell in a press release. While the drop suggests a kudos to the Pataki administration, it also helps to read between the lines: Folks claiming the EITC are still earning so little that, although they may have left welfare, they still need state-funded programs to get by.