The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) was created by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act instituted under President Bill Clinton in 1996. Many conservatives disagreed with the previous program Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). They believed that a welfare program for families should have a work incentive component. Under TANF recipients had 24 months in which to gain employment. The length of assistance was not to last more than two years.
It was passed by a Republican congress who liked the work component of the law and by President Clinton who had promised to “end welfare as we know it.” While it worked for the first few years, the law had been passed during an economic upsurge and when the recession hit there was not enough support to reach everyone in need.
Thus the needy were again left to fend for themselves and were unable to create the upward mobility the program had promised. Since then the program has faced even more cuts. Read about the coming TANF crisis from The National Association of Social Workers (NASW). An organization familiar with the plight of the poor.
Congress will most likely not be able to pass the spending bills for the next fiscal year which begins on October 1. As a result, they will need to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government running. NASW has learned that members of Congress have included $29 million in cuts to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program in the CR.
The CR contains two separate cuts to the TANF Program funding that will make it even more difficult for the economically disadvantaged to attain long-term employment and increase their earnings. These cuts are a move in the wrong direction and reflect a larger trend of doing the least for those who need a hand the most. This funding reduction would come on top of the 2011 elimination of TANF Supplemental Grants, which previously provided $319 million in annual TANF resources. The cuts to TANF included in the CR are:
1) $14 million (2%) reduction in the TANF Contingency Fund
Over one-third of States have relied on the TANF Contingency Fund last year to provide additional funding to respond to an increase in demand for TANF services since the start of the economic downturn. States qualify for Contingency Fund payments based on their unemployment rate, SNAP caseload, and maintenance-of-effort spending on TANF services.
2) $15 million (100%) reduction that will eliminate TANF Research Funds
TANF Research Funds are used by the Department of Health and Human Services to evaluate the effectiveness of different state TANF programs and to develop new approaches for improving employment outcomes among TANF recipients. These funds date back to the inception of the TANF program in 1996 and have been included in each extension of TANF since. If this cut is enacted, studies currently being conducted on vocational training, job search services, and other initiatives would be severely disrupted.
Since 1996, the size of the overall TANF block grant has lost 32% of its real value.
The growing income inequality gap keeps rising. There are other ways to help the problem such as repealing Citizen’s United, ending corporate welfare, and raising the minimum wage. But here’s a step you can take which will help now. Use the following tool to contact your congressman and let them know how important this legislation is to those less fortunate.