Senior Policy Analyst
In his new budget, President Trump proposes to cut Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) by $21 billion over ten years, which would leave many families with less assistance when they fall on hard times. The cuts include a 10 percent reduction in the annual block grant funding for states and an end to the $608 million TANF Contingency Fund, which gives states additional funds at times of economic distress.
The budget also would impose new TANF spending restrictions, which together with the funding reductions would likely prompt states to cut basic assistance — the funds that go directly to families — as they’ve done in the past. And, like TANF’s current work requirement, the proposed work requirement would retain TANF’s rigid policy of conditioning one’s benefits on meeting certain hourly requirements, which families would continue to find challenging. The harm from these proposals far outweighs other proposed programmatic changes that actually could improve TANF.
The proposed changes, and their effects, include:
States spend less than a quarter of TANF funds on basic assistance, and history shows that they’d likely cut that amount further to address the 10 percent block grant funding cut and new spending requirements. Fewer families would therefore receive the assistance they need under a program with already limited reach. The number of families receiving assistance for every 100 in poverty has dropped from 68 in 1996 under the last year of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) to 22 in 2018 under TANF (which replaced AFDC); this TANF-to-poverty ratio will only continue to decline if states continue to reduce basic assistance.
Among its programmatic changes to TANF, the budget proposes:
Overall, the President’s budget would aggressively push TANF in the wrong direction. Several states have taken concrete steps to make TANF more accessible and beneficial to families in poverty. This budget would halt states’ progress and encourage them to withdraw critical supports to families in poverty.