Family Assistance Plan (FAP)


Welfare reform proposal first introduced by President Richard Nixon in 1969 that would have guaranteed a minimum income for poor families.

The idea of a guaranteed minimum income gained acceptability in conservative circles in the mid-1960s when libertarian economist Milton Friedman suggested adopting a negative income tax to provide a safety net for the poor while also rewarding work. President Nixon liked the boldness of a proposal that would abolish the current welfare system, and he presented the Family Assistance Plan (FAP) in a nationally televised address on August 8,1969.

The FAP included an increase of about $2.5 billion in federal welfare spending, with the average family of four expected to receive $1,600 in monthly benefits. The plan also promised to provide benefits for more than 13 million working men and women whose wages remained insufficient to lift them above the poverty line but who failed to pass eligibility requirements for other federal welfare benefits.

Nixon’s public support for the FAP was not matched by decisive action to ensure passage of the FAP. The proposal failed to pass Congress in 1970 and again in 1972, as the votes in support of the plan proved insufficient to overcome the opposition from both sides of the ideological spectrum: Conservatives thought the proposal too generous, but liberal politicians and welfare rights activists, most notably the National Welfare Rights Organization, characterized the benefits under FAP as being too stingy. Liberals also opposed the work requirements inherent in FAP, the very feature of the program that conservatives found most appealing.

Although the Family Assistance Plan never became law, efforts to raise the incomes of low-wage workers persisted. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), first enacted in 1975, followed in the ideological tradition of the FAP by seeking to provide working families with greater after-tax income.

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