Efforts to modernize public assistance via the Social Security Act of 1935 met significant opposition from states. One manifestation of that resistance was state responsible relative laws in the Old Age Assistance program. Responsible relative laws enforced support by adult children as an eligibility requirement; applicants with children deemed able to provide support were either denied aid, or the grant awarded was reduced. These laws are an example of parent dependency policies that sought to enforce or encourage family members, particularly adult children, to support parents in need. States sought to ensure that all financial resources were exhausted before public funds were spent on OAA. Responsible relative laws were an arena of public assistance that remained under state discretion, and many states used them to control costs and contest federal efforts to modernize relief programs and limit state and local authority.
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