Vice President for Family Income Support Policy
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. Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia used $1.3 billion from the fund to place more than 260,000 low-income unemployed adults and youth in temporary jobs in the private and public sectors (see map).
While the fund expired last September 30 and most of those jobs have ended, they provided a bright spot in what was an otherwise dismal time for many low-income Americans. They enabled families to pay their bills, small businesses to stay afloat, and government agencies and nonprofits to respond to increased demand for services. They also put much-needed resources into local communities, including many with especially severe unemployment.
Our study drew the following lessons from states’ experience with the fund:
The TANF Emergency Fund has ended, but the need for jobs remains. The fund’s accomplishments — most fundamentally, in showing that unemployed individuals in large numbers will seize the opportunity to work when given a paying job — should not be ignored until the next recession hits. Rather, policymakers should use these lessons to create the next generation of public-private initiatives that will help restore the country’s strength and build tomorrow’s labor force.