NEW YORK (WOMENSENEWS)–This morning, New York state government will begin canceling welfare benefits for an estimated 38,000 families–nearly all headed by single mothers.

The families will have received benefits for five years and, under the 1996 federal welfare law, are no longer eligible for federal assistance on December 1. At least 30,000 of the families live in New York City, hit by an economic slump so severe that it lost 179,000 jobs in October.

An additional 13,700 families are expected to reach their time limits in the next three months, The New York Times reported. Almost half of those losing benefits have jobs, but earn so little they qualify for benefits and 14 percent have been working in exchange for benefits. Others are ill, elderly, disabled or in job training programs.

State officials said that all the families were being transferred to the state-run benefits program, but the newspaper reported that many were being denied the state aid.