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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.

TANF Extension Leaves Many Poor States Out in the Cold

September 28, 2011

For the first time since creating the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program in 1996, Congress last week extended the program without including funding for TANF Supplemental Grants aimed at 17 mostly poor states (see table). It did so even as the Census Bureau was releasing data showing very high levels of poverty and “deep poverty” (incomes below half the poverty line) in many of those 17 states.

TANF at 15, Part IV: Looking Ahead

August 26, 2011

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:

TANF at 15, Part III: What Is TANF’s Record of Success?

August 25, 2011

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.

TANF at 15, Part II:  How Have States Spent Their TANF Dollars?

August 24, 2011

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.

TANF at 15, Part I: How Well Does It Provide Income Support for Poor Families?

August 22, 2011

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.

TANF at 15: A Weak Safety Net Getting Weaker

August 19, 2011

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.

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