The term “welfare” can be defined in a variety of ways. A welfare definition includes cash payments, free or subsidized healthcare, vouchers for services, such as housing and other forms and types of assistance. In many cases, but not always, welfare is provided by a local or federal government. However, private, non-governmental organizations also provide a significant amount of welfare and aid throughout all parts of the world. This article will focus on welfare available to individuals living within the United States.
Welfare as we know it in the United States can be traced back to the 1930s, when others were taken to combat the severe economic effects of the Great Depression. Since that period of time and throughout the decades that followed many different welfare programs have been created. These programs include Medicaid, food stamps, health care for indigent individuals and families and various benefits available for Armed Forces veterans.
The typical and classic welfare definition is a payment of cash to someone who is in need. In the United States these outright payments are made under various programs including Social Security disability, supplemental security income, aid and attendance veterans benefits and unemployment benefits payments. In general a payment and cash will only be made to people who have the unique or dire situation which needs immediate help or attention. This includes becoming disabled and losing the ability to work, having a little or no income at all (which deprives an individual of basic living in such as food, shelter, and clothing), and losing a primary source of income.
A subsidy is also common for welfare. Often subsidies are provided by either local, state or federal governments to help “level the playing field” between two groups of individuals. For example, the Federal Aviation Administration, which is a part of the United States Department of Transportation, provides subsidies to various airlines which fly into airports and cities with very small populations. Giving small cities access to airfare and their local area allows them to avoid having to travel great distances to a larger city with a bigger airport before being able to travel. Additionally, governments often will subsidize various goods and commodities to help local businesses, farmers and other groups compete with lower-cost goods which are being imported from other countries. Governments can also provide temporary subsidies from time to time. A good example of this is the stimulus money provided through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (also known as the “Stimulus Bill”).
Vouchers are also provided to all first appearance on a regular basis. A voucher is treated as a cash equivalent that can only be used for a specific purpose. One very large voucher program the United States federal government provides is the Section 8 housing program. Through the Section 8 program individuals and families are able to only pay funds to a landlord so that they have a place to live. Many city and state governments also provide vouchers to low income individuals to assist with educational costs of sending children to school.
It is important as you explore the concept of what a welfare definition is to keep in mind the variety of programs and sources of funding available to people who are in need. You should also keep in mind that the concept of welfare and the various programs available to individuals can vary greatly outside United States.