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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.

TANF Block Grant No Model for Other Safety Net Programs

July 14, 2011

While some leading conservatives have hailed the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant as a model for reform for Medicaid and other safety net programs, TANF’s poor response to the recent recession highlights the weaknesses of a block-grant structure. Here’s the opening of our new report on this issue:

Poorest States Facing Cut in Federal Welfare Funding

June 27, 2011

In a continued unraveling of Congress’ deal with the states when it enacted the 1996 welfare reform law, federal Supplemental Grants provided every year since 1996 to 17 states to augment their Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant will expire this Friday, our new report explains. These states include some of the poorest in the nation, with child poverty rates averaging 22 percent (see map). Several have also been hit especially hard by the economic downturn; nine have unemployment rates above the 9.1 percent national average.

Welfare Reform Not the “Success” Ryan Claims

May 25, 2011

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan cites the “unprecedented success” of welfare reform to support his claim that the House-passed Republican budget that he authored would “strengthen the safety net.” The facts tell a very different story.

The Legacy of the TANF Emergency Fund

February 16, 2011

We and the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) issued a major assessment today of states’ use of the TANF Emergency Fund to create subsidized jobs. Two years ago, amidst the worst downturn since the Great Depression, Congress created the fund as part of the 2009 Recovery Act to help states assist the growing number of low-income families hit by the recession.