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Poverty Law

Resources for getting started on research related to laws and legal issues impacting the poor.

Relevant Legislation

Below are some of the major acts of Congress relating to Poverty Law. Click on the links below for background information on each act.


Aid to Dependent Children (1935).

Established by the Social Security Act of 1935 as a grant program to enable states to provide cash welfare payments for needy children who had been deprived of parental support or care because their father or mother was absent from the home, incapacitated, deceased, or unemployed.


Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. P.L. 88-452, 78 Stat. 508.

Central to the "War on Poverty," this act was a major piece of President Lyndon Johnson's agenda. The EOA was passed in August 1964 and provided for job training, adult education, and loans to small businesses. 


Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. P.L. 89-10, 79 Stat. 27.

Important to the “War on Poverty,” the ESEA represented a commitment to equal access to quality education as well as funding professional development, teaching resources, and the promotion of parental involvement. The act was signed into law on April 9, 1965, and the government has reauthorized the ESEA every five years since its enactment.


Food Stamp Act of 1964. P.L. 88-525, 78 Stat. 703.

The Federal Food Stamp Act of 1964 provides food stamps for needy individuals and is the most important food program in the United States. Those who are eligible for food stamps include low-income and unemployed individuals. Food stamps cannot be used for nonfood items, including medicine. 


Medicaid Act (1965). 42 U.S.C. §1396 et seq.

The Social Security Act Amendments, signed by President Lyndon Johnson on July 30, 1965, established Medicare, a health insurance program for the elderly, and Medicaid, a health insurance program for the poor.


Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (1996). P.L. 104-193, 110 Stat. 2105

This comprehensive welfare reform act was signed into law by President Clinton on August 22,1996. Among other things, the act created the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which replaced the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program that was established by Title IV of the Social Security Act of 1935.  


Social Security Act of 1935. 42 U.S.C. § 301 et seq.

Enacted under President Franklin Roosevelt's administration, the Social Security Act created a system of benefits for the elderly, persons with disabilities, including industrial accident victims, the unemployed, and dependent children. 


United States Housing Act of 1937. P.L. 75-412, 50 Stat. 888.

Enacted under President Franklin Roosevelt's administration, Unites States Housing Act of 1937 (also known as the Wagner-Steagall Housing Act) established the United States Housing Authority (USHA) that provided low-interest loans for low-cost housing projects in both large and small urban areas across the United States.

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