One million New York City residents, including over 500,000 children, rely on public assistance as their primary source of income. Under the state’s two basic welfare programs, $2.4 billion in direct income support payments were made in 1996, of which over $1 billion was spent by recipients to secure housing. Nevertheless, their housing status is tenuous; approximately 250,000 welfare recipients are homeless or living doubled-up with others, and another 100,000 are protected from eviction by emergency rental payments or court-ordered rent supplements.

Last summer President Clinton signed a new federal welfare law (the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, or PRA) which terminates the entitlement status of public assistance for families with children, ends the federal commitment to match state welfare spending, bars many non-citizen immigrants from receiving federal welfare funds, and imposes strict new work requirements and five-year time limits on welfare recipients.

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