Last year, 11,717 low-income residents of Mississippi applied to get a meager government benefit to help them make ends meet. The state’s welfare program, part of federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), gives a maximum of just $170 a month to a family of three. These applicants had applied hoping to get at least that crumb of cash assistance. But out of the pool—more than 11 thousand—only 167 people were actually approved and enrolled in the program, according to state data obtained by ThinkProgress. Every other applicant was denied or withdrew, resulting in an acceptance rate of just 1.42 percent. Statistically speaking, it’s more like a rounding error. The numbers follow a disturbing trend in the state over the past several years. Between 2003 and 2010, according to a report by the Mississippi Low-Income Child Care Initiative (MLICCI), roughly half of the applicants to the state’s TANF program were rejected, already a large share of poor people denied assistance. But then in 2011, the rejection rate catapulted to 89 percent. It has gradually increased every year since.
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