Despite continuing efforts by Senate Democrats to extend the TANF Emergency Fund, we are just two days away from its September 30 expiration.
This afternoon, several Democratic senators introduced a bill to extend the fund until December 31 and cover the $500 million cost using funds already available for a different TANF fund, known as the Contingency Fund. Both funds are designed to help states respond to the increase in unemployment and hardship during recessions, but the Contingency Fund — unlike the newer Emergency Fund — has complicated rules that make it difficult for states to obtain money from the fund even in a severe downturn like this one. Fewer than half of the states qualified for regular Contingency Funds during the last two fiscal years.
Because the extension was paid for with existing funds, it would not have added to the deficit.
In their remarks on the floor, Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Robert Casey (D-PA) noted how important the program has been in their states — placing more than 12,000 people in jobs in Pennsylvania and 26,000 in Illinois. Senator Durbin asked: “Will we do everything in our power to put Americans to work?”
Earlier this morning, Florida’s Independent Governor Charlie Crist released a statement urging his state’s congressional delegation and other key members of Congress to extend the Emergency Fund. Crist noted that the Florida Back to Work program, supported by the Emergency Fund, “has already helped put more 1,000 employers put more than 5,300 Floridians back to work.”
Senator Durbin asked that the bill be approved through unanimous consent. Unfortunately, Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) objected, which means the bill is effectively dead. This puts us one more day closer to the fund’s expiration.