Vice President for Family Income Support Policy
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:
Now with unemployment rates at levels unimaginable even five years ago, the context for reform has changed, posing profound questions for Congress as it revisits the law that “changed welfare as we knew it” when it expires next month.
In renewing TANF, which replaced the old Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, Congress should strengthen it both as a work program and as a safety net for unemployed parents and their children. Congress could help to achieve these goals by making changes that include:
Congress should not only strengthen TANF, but do so promptly. The last time TANF came up for renewal, in 2001, it took Congress more than four years to pass comprehensive reauthorization legislation — a delay that set back state program innovations permanently. We should not allow the same thing to happen again.
All four posts in the series: