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TANF at 16: Time to Retool

August 22, 2012

Sixteen years ago today, President Clinton signed into law the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 — commonly known as “welfare reform.”  A key component was its creation of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant to replace Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC).

Since then, TANF has played a shrinking...

5 Ways Waivers Will Strengthen Welfare Reform

July 13, 2012

Despite mounting complaints from conservatives, the Obama Administration’s announcement yesterday that it will give states waivers to run demonstration projects in their TANF programs will not kill or undermine welfare reform.  Indeed, it will strengthen welfare reform by giving states greater...

Weakened Safety Net Devastates Families

June 20, 2012

A new Huffington Post article starkly portrays TANF’s failure to provide a safety net in Georgia.  It vividly reminds us how important the safety net is to families in need – and the devastating consequences that can result when families who are desperately seeking help are turned away....

Fixing Some of TANF’s Failures

June 6, 2012

All three witnesses at a hearing yesterday on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families agreed that TANF has failed in two important respects.  First, it has not adequately prepared program participants for long-term employment...

Efforts to Boost Outcomes for Children with Disabilities Should Build Upon SSI’s Foundation

May 8, 2012

As my colleague Kathy Ruffing noted yesterday, the Brookings Institution hosts an event today about improving the effectiveness and efficiency of programs designed to assist poor, disabled children.  At...

Chairman Ryan’s Call for “Welfare Reform, Round Two” Ignores Inconvenient Facts About Round One

March 21, 2012

House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan said yesterday that his budget aims to begin “welfare reform, round two.”  According to Chairman Ryan, “That means block-granting means-tested entitlements — like food stamps, like housing assistance — back to the states so they can customize these benefits, have time limits, work requirements, the kinds of successful policies that made welfare reform so...

TANF Weakening as a Safety Net

March 14, 2012

Many policymakers see the 1996 welfare law’s creation of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) as a major success and cite TANF’s structure — a block grant with fixed federal funding but broad state flexibility— as a model for other safety net programs.

But when we analyzed state-by-state data...

Poorer States Lose Out Again in Latest TANF Extension

February 23, 2012

The bill that Congress passed last week to extend the payroll tax cut and federal emergency unemployment insurance also extended the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant through September 2012. But, in a continued unraveling of the deal...

Taking Stock of the Safety Net, Part 2: Meeting Families’ Basic Needs Through TANF

December 15, 2011

About 3.5 million children and 1.1 million parents receive cash assistance each month from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to help cover their basic needs.

Families turn to TANF at times of major economic or personal distress, usually when they have lost a job or are facing a...

Helping State TANF Programs Respond to Hard Economic Times

September 30, 2011

As I noted in a recent post on Congress' failure to fund TANF Supplemental Grants for 17 mostly poor states, one way to help offset the loss of that funding would be to redesign the TANF Contingency Fund. When Congress created the TANF block grant in 1996, it created the TANF Contingency Fund for states to draw upon during periods of economic distress.