List of 80+ Federal Welfare Programs

Updated February 16, 2020

The means-tested welfare system consists of 80+ federal programs providing cash, food, housing, medical care, social services, training, and targeted education aid to poor and low-income Americans.


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Welfare programs are government subsidies to the poor. These programs represent “entitlements” to all Americans but benefits are only paid to those who work, but earn too little.

These means-tested welfare system consists of 80+ low-income programs providing cash, food, housing, medical care, and social services to poor and lower income Americans.

For instance, SNAP enables recipients to purchase more food, Medicaid provides people with health care coverage, and Pell grants make postsecondary education more affordable for students.

In 2019, federal spending on 13 largest of these low-income programs — which account for the bulk of welfare spending, totaled $770 billion with Medicaid accounted for half, followed in size by the refundable portion of the EITC, SNAP and SSI. 1

In total, these 4 programs — which account for the bulk of welfare spending — comprised almost 80% of total spending or about $590 billion. 2

Federal Spending on Major Welfare Programs

Welfare Program20182019
Grants to States for Medicaid
EITC and Child Tax Credit77.288.1
Supplemental Security Income Program
Housing Assistance47.946.1
Pell Grants
Student Financial Assistance
Child Nutrition22.923.2
Head Start
Children and Families Services Programs
Employment & Training7.16.6
Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children
Child Care
Payments to States for the Child Care and Development Block Grant + Child Care Entitlement to States
Total Welfare Spending739.9771.4

Here is a list of 80+ federal welfare programs

An estimated over 100 million people — about a third of the U.S. population (35.4%) 3, received aid from at least one of these programs at an average cost of $9,000 per recipient. Nearly two-thirds lived in households with children.


  1. Data Source: Retrieved March 19, 2019.()
  2. Government Accountability Office, FEDERAL LOW-INCOME PROGRAMS, July 2015()
  3. Terence P. Jeffrey, The 35.4 Percent: 109,631,000 on Welfare()