• 1.a.1 Total official development assistance grants from all donors that focus on poverty reduction as a share of the recipient country’s gross national income
  • 1.a.2 Proportion of total government spending on essential services (education, health and social protection)
  • 1.a.2 Proportion of total government spending on essential services (education, health and social protection)

    There is no uniform definition of ‘public welfare spending’, with variance between different countries and, within the United States, within different states. The Urban Policy Center includes in its definition cash assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF), Supplemental Security Income, and other forms of direct payment to individuals. One common definition is “government subsidies for low-income families and individuals…recipients must prove their income falls below a target.” Under this definition, the 6 major programs are TANF, Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Supplemental Security Income, Earned Income Tax Credit, and housing assistance. There is no one overarching definition codified in national law or expressed by the United States federal government.

    The United States has long disseminated public welfare in some form and spent $718 billion on public welfare in 2018 (or 22 percent of direct general spending). The majority takes place at the state level (92 percent), accounting for a tremendous proportion of state expenditures. The proportion of the national and state budgets allocated towards public welfare has increased over time, with the United States spending a mere $143 billion in 1977 in inflation-adjusted dollars.

    There are wide discrepancies in spending across states, which is often due to differing determinations about the eligibility for federal programs. DC’s per capita spending in 2018 was $5,359, a fairly high total relative to other areas and states in the country. Unsurprisingly, DC defines public assistance fairly widely, with legislation noting that it “…means payment in or money, medical care, remedial care, goods or services to, or for the benefit of, needy persons.” In 2019, Virginia’s per capita welfare spending was $1,429, reflecting the state’s relative affluence compared to other states. Virginia has not sought to comprehensively define welfare spending. Finally, Maryland spent $2,159 in per capita welfare spendingin 2018, which is middle of the road, spending slightly more than the median state. Similar to Virginia, Maryland has not comprehensively defined it.

    Welfare spending has come under increased scrutiny with the introduction of new cash assistance programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the distribution of stimulus checks to qualified US residents. Many have argued that the welfare framework in the United States needs a facelift due to the disparate impacts of the pandemic on the most marginalized Americans; these proponents believe that the United States should assure a basic package of essential services provided to Americans. Politicians in the National Capital Area have focused on attempting to secure cash payments for their constituents. In March of 2021, Maryland leaders secured nearly $4 billion in aid in the form of unemployment relief and temporary cash benefits, hailed as a major victory in the face of the pandemic.

    Further investigation of the proportion of state spending on health and education are explored under SDG 3 and 4, respectively. It is also essential to note that DC’s status as a federal district—not a state— has complicated its ability to secure COVID-19 emergency funding for constituents, and a more comprehensive analysis of the relationship between statehood, welfare, and public health is in production.