Vice President for Family Income Support Policy
As we approach the 20th anniversary of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant on August 22, this blog series will outline key facts about the program.
Policymakers created the TANF block grant in large part to give states more flexibility to help cash assistance recipients find and maintain work so they’d no longer need assistance. If states had more flexibility, proponents argued, they could take funds previously used for cash grants and use them to help recipients find jobs and to cover the costs of work supports like child care and transportation assistance. But, the evidence shows, states haven’t lived up to this expectation:
Work requirements are a central theme of conservative proposals to reduce poverty. But 20 years of work requirements under TANF show that work requirements not accompanied by meaningful investments to help people improve their education and skills and gain work experience do little to reduce poverty and make many of the poorest families even poorer.