In last week's four-part series from LaDonna Pavetti, we highlighted the 15th anniversary of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) - which was created under the 1996 welfare reform law - by examining what it was accomplishing, where it was falling short, and how policymakers could strengthen it.
In the 15 years since its creation as part of welfare reform, TANF has performed better than most people expected when the economy was booming and jobs were plentiful, and worse than most people expected during the continuing severe downturn. Gordon Berlin, the highly respected president of the research organization MDRC -- which has conducted the vast majority of evaluations of state welfare reform efforts -- laid out the challenge ahead:
Over the 15 years since President Clinton and Congress reformed welfare in 1996, states have transformed what were previously their AFDC programs, which were primarily focused on providing income support, into work-based systems that tie cash assistance to participation in work or work-related activities such as job search.
Under the 1996 welfare law, which replaced AFDC with the TANF block grant, states receive fixed federal funding each year in exchange for greater flexibility in using that funding. Unlike AFDC, therefore, federal TANF funding does not decrease in good economic times when cash assistance caseloads fall or rise in hard economic times when cash assistance caseloads increase. Given the dramatic decline in cash assistance caseloads I described in Monday's post, today we look briefly at TANF funding over time and how states have spent their TANF dollars.
President Clinton signed the 1996 welfare law 15 years ago today, creating the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant to replace the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program. We'll present a series of posts this week that provide a closer look at how welfare reform has played out over the last 15 years. Today's post focuses on TANF as a source of income support for poor families.
Monday will mark the 15th anniversary of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant (i.e., "welfare reform"). Here are some highlights of TANF as we know it today. On Monday, we'll provide more information on how TANF has changed over time.