Many low-income families across America have experienced considerably less hardship in the downturn than they would have without the TANF Emergency Fund. The fund expires today, which means that starting tomorrow, needy families will have less help getting through what continue to be very tough times.
While my many posts on the fund have focused on the thousands of low-income parents and teens who will lose their jobs, states have also used the fund for purposes other than providing jobs. So, many other low-income families will also feel the impact of its expiration. Here are some examples of what lies ahead:
In New Jersey, homeless families will receive much less help. A fund-supported program that assisted 3,678 homeless families in need of social services in the first seven months of the year will be significantly scaled back today.
Nevada, facing an unemployment rate of 14.4 percent — the highest in the nation — will reduce TANF funding for child welfare services, a program for autistic children, and other services for vulnerable families. These cuts were part of $9 million in cuts the state specified in its budget that would take effect if Congress failed to extend the fund.
In Washington State, the fund’s expiration more than doubled the size of the state’s TANF budget shortfall, from $50 to $110 million. The state is considering reducing child care assistance, shrinking monthly TANF cash assistance benefits, and scaling back its subsidized jobs program, among other things.
Texas, facing a statewide budget shortfall of between $11 and $18 billion, has proposed cutting its already low TANF benefits of $260 per month for a family of three by 20 percent.
The TANF Emergency Fund did what it was intended to do: provide much-needed support to our nation’s most vulnerable citizens during a time of sharply increased hardship. Because of the fund, fewer children went to bed hungry, fewer families became homeless, and more parents proudly supported their families through the wages they earned. And though the fund itself has gone away, the need for it has not.