By Tami Luhby @CNNMoney
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) - Today's welfare program is nothing like what it used to be.
In the 16 years since President Clinton and Congress overhauled the nation's welfare system, the number of people receiving cash assistance has fallen by two-thirds. And public spending on the program has dropped by more than half.
Conservative lawmakers and policy analysts have celebrated the reform, saying it has helped put people on the road to self-sufficiency rather than government dependence.
But advocates for low-income people contend that Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which is what welfare turned into in 1996, does not adequately support the poor, particularly in tough economic times.
The cash assistance portion of TANF has fallen to $9.6 billion in 2011, down from $20.4 billion in what were mostly cash benefits in 1996, according to an analysis by CLASP, a low-income advocacy group. The average number of people receiving payments per month is 4.6 million, down from 12.6 million.
"Very few poor families are served," said Liz Schott, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. "It's really not a very broad program right now."