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Trump’s TANF Cuts Would Hurt the Poorest Families, and States Might Make Them Worse

May 30, 2017 at 4:45 PM

President Trump’s proposed $2.2 billion cut to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program in 2018 would reduce states’ federal TANF funds by 10 to 18 percent (depending on whether a state receives TANF Contingency Funds), as the table below shows. Over the next decade, the TANF cut would total $22 billion.

Moreover, states have great flexibility to spend TANF funds as they wish, and they might be pressured to use some of their reduced TANF funds to plug their budget holes. That’s because the Trump budget proposes to cut some $2.5 trillion over the next decade across programs for low- and moderate-income people, including a range of important programs for which the states receive significant federal funds.

To understand the magnitude of the TANF cuts in 2018 alone, consider:

  • The cuts would total more than the amount that all states combined spend on work programs.
  • In 11 states, the cuts would be more than half of what the states spend on basic assistance.
  • In 18 states, the cuts would be more than half of what the states spend on child care assistance.

With their flexibility under TANF, states could respond to the cuts in a number of ways. They could, for instance, cut all of their TANF-funded programs by an equal percentage, or they could target the cuts in one area such as basic assistance.

Several states face budget shortfalls, they often look first to core TANF activities, like basic assistance, for savings. In response to increased need and budget shortfalls caused by the Great Recession, several states made disproportionate cuts to cash assistance by tightening time limits, reducing benefits, or scaling back eligibility. Still, because many states already spend so little on basic assistance, they likely would also have to cut popular programs like child care, state earned income tax credit programs that support working families, and child welfare programs that provide services to some of the most vulnerable children.

Several states face budget shortfalls this year and are already making tough decisions about how to balance their budgets. Some are considering cutting TANF basic assistance programs. The President’s proposals would make it harder for states to fulfill TANF’s core purpose: to provide financial support for families in need and help parents find work.

Fourteen states already have ten or fewer families on TANF for every 100 families in poverty. The President’s TANF cuts would force states to push more families off assistance and deeper into poverty.

Potential Impact of Trump Budget Proposals on Federal TANF Funds to States in 2018
  Current Level, 2017 President's Proposed Cut, 2018
  State Block Grant (includes Tribal Grants) Contingency Fund Block Grant Reduction Elimination of Contingency Fund Total Estimated Federal Funds Cut Percent Cut
Alabama 93,315,207 9,164,380 -9,049,924 -9,164,380 -18,214,304 -18%
Alaska 63,609,072   -6,168,955   -6,168,955 -10%
Arizona 222,419,988 19,655,642 -21,570,804 -19,655,642 -41,226,446 -17%
Arkansas 56,732,858 5,571,669 -5,502,083 -5,571,669 -11,073,752 -18%
California 3,733,817,784   -362,114,265   -362,114,265 -10%
Colorado 136,056,690 13,361,970 -13,195,092 -13,361,970 -26,557,062 -18%
Connecticut 266,788,107   -25,873,726   -25,873,726 -10%
Delaware 32,290,981 3,171,259 -3,131,654 -3,171,259 -6,302,913 -18%
Dist. of Col. 92,609,815 9,095,102 -8,981,514 -9,095,102 -18,076,616 -18%
Florida 562,340,120   -54,537,043   -54,537,043 -10%
Georgia 330,741,739   -32,076,097   -32,076,097 -10%
Hawaii 98,904,788 9,713,323 -9,592,015 -9,713,323 -19,305,338 -18%
Idaho 31,938,052   -3,097,426   -3,097,426 -10%
Illinois 585,056,960   -56,740,174   -56,740,174 -10%
Indiana 206,799,109   -20,055,855   -20,055,855 -10%
Iowa 131,524,959   -12,755,594   -12,755,594 -10%
Kansas 101,931,061   -9,885,510   -9,885,510 -10%
Kentucky 181,287,669   -17,581,697   -17,581,697 -10%
Louisiana 163,971,985   -15,902,382   -15,902,382 -10%
Maine 78,120,889   -7,576,344   -7,576,344 -10%
Maryland 229,098,032 22,499,451 -22,218,456 -22,499,451 -44,717,907 -18%
Massachusetts 459,371,116 45,114,298 -44,550,871 -45,114,298 -89,665,169 -18%
Michigan 775,352,858   -75,195,509   -75,195,509 -10%
Minnesota 267,984,886   -25,989,793   -25,989,793 -10%
Mississippi 86,767,578   -8,414,920   -8,414,920 -10%
Missouri 217,051,740   -21,050,179   -21,050,179 -10%
Montana 45,534,006   -4,415,993   -4,415,993 -10%
Nebraska 58,028,579   -5,627,746   -5,627,746 -10%
Nevada 43,976,750 4,312,106 -4,264,967 -4,312,106 -8,577,073 -18%
New Hampshire 38,521,261   -3,735,881   -3,735,881 -10%
New Jersey 404,034,823   -39,184,230   -39,184,230 -10%
New Mexico 126,103,156 10,859,744 -12,229,775 -10,859,744 -23,089,519 -17%
New York 2,442,930,602 239,917,352 -236,921,047 -239,917,352 -476,838,399 -18%
North Carolina 302,239,599 29,603,580 -29,311,894 -29,603,580 -58,915,474 -18%
North Dakota 26,399,809   -2,560,314   -2,560,314 -10%
Ohio 727,968,260   -70,600,042   -70,600,042 -10%
Oklahoma 148,013,558   -14,354,696   -14,354,696 -10%
Oregon 167,924,513 16,381,097 -16,285,707 -16,381,097 -32,666,804 -18%
Pennsylvania 719,499,305   -69,778,703   -69,778,703 -10%
Rhode Island 95,021,587   -9,215,413   -9,215,413 -10%
South Carolina 99,967,824 9,817,722 -9,695,110 -9,817,722 -19,512,832 -18%
South Dakota 21,893,519   -2,123,284   -2,123,284 -10%
Tennessee 191,523,797 18,809,327 -18,574,420 -18,809,327 -37,383,747 -18%
Texas 486,256,752 47,754,705 -47,158,302 -47,754,705 -94,913,007 -18%
Utah 76,829,219   -7,451,075   -7,451,075 -10%
Vermont 47,353,181   -4,592,421   -4,592,421 -10%
Virginia 158,285,172   -15,350,861   -15,350,861 -10%
Washington 404,331,754 37,369,915 -39,213,027 -37,369,915 -76,582,942 -17%
West Virginia 110,176,310   -10,685,153   -10,685,153 -10%
Wisconsin 318,188,410 30,827,358 -30,858,646 -30,827,358 -61,686,004 -18%
Wyoming 21,781,446   -2,112,415   -2,112,415 -10%
US Total 16,488,667,235 $608,000,000 -1,599,109,000 -608,000,000 -2,207,109,000 -13%

Note: State Contingency Fund awards based on 2016 estimates and do not sum to the national total.
Source: CBPP analysis of Health and Human Services Budget data. Contingency Fund data from Health and Human Services.


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