Washington, DC 20002
Iris J. Lav
Board of Directors
David de Ferranti, Chair
John R. Kramer, Vice Chair
Henry J. Aaron
Barbara B. Blum
Marian Wright Edelman
James O. Gibson
Beatrix Hamburg, M.D.
Richard P. Nathan
Robert D. Reischauer
Juan Sepulveda, Jr.
William Julius Wilson
CBPP RESPONSE TO HHS’S ANNOUNCEMENT THAT
TANF CASELOADS FELL IN 2003
Just as last year’s release failed to note that child poverty increased in 2002, this year’s release fails to note that the proportion of single mothers who are employed fell in 2003 and the unemployment rate rose markedly among single mothers.
Although poverty data for 2003 will not be released until Thursday, both conservative and liberal analysts agree that the data likely will show that that the number of children in poverty rose again in 2003.
It is reasonable to expect that the number of families receiving TANF assistance will fall when the number of needy families — poor families with no or limited employment — declines. The new data released by HHS are troubling because they show that fewer families were helped by TANF at the very time that the number of jobless single mothers was rising and the number of payroll jobs in the economy overall was declining. (Payroll jobs fell by 410,000 from 2002 to 2003.)
“Contrary to Secretary Thompson’s statement,
the decline in TANF caseloads does not appear to mean that more families are
leaving welfare for work. The decline in employment rates among single
mothers suggests that more families may have fallen deeper into poverty in
2003 because they neither had a job nor received cash assistance,” said
While cash assistance caseloads have not increased, caseloads in other low-income programs — including food stamps and Medicaid — have grown as would be expected during a period of labor market weakness and increased poverty. HHS should examine why TANF cash assistance programs do not appear to be responding to increases in joblessness and poverty.
Caseload Decline May Not
Be Related to Improved Employment Outcomes:
There is evidence from at least two states that
posted significant TANF caseload declines that these declines may not be
related to improving employment outcomes for recipients.
For additional information on employment for single mothers in 2003 and the decline in TANF participation by families who are poor enough to quality, see the Center’s paper: “Employment Rates For Single Mothers Fell Substantially During Recent Period Of Labor Market Weakness” at http://www.cbpp.org/archiveSite/6-22-04ui.htm.
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The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization and policy institute that conducts research and analysis on a range of government policies and programs. It is supported primarily by foundation grants.