Given the wildly inaccurate description of the TANF Emergency Fund on the “YouCut” website, the vote to eliminate the program is meaningless. Far from a “backdoor way to undo” welfare reform, the fund has enabled states to expand work-focused programs within TANF despite high unemployment and a weak economy.
Here are the facts:
The Emergency Fund will enable states to place 186,000 unemployed individuals in subsidized jobs by the end of the summer. It’s the largest subsidized employment effort states have ever taken under TANF, the national block grant created by the 1996 welfare reform law. (More details here and here). A large share of the jobs are in the private sector.
The claim that the Emergency Fund “incentivizes states to increase their welfare caseloads” is simply wrong. States don’t have to increase their caseloads to qualify for money from the Emergency Fund. In fact, some states whose caseloads have sharply declined despite the recession have used money from the fund to help create subsidized jobs for low-income parents and youth or to provide one-time assistance to families in crisis (such as help paying a back rent or utility bill for a family facing eviction). In addition, states have to contribute 20 percent of the costs.
Individuals receiving TANF assistance funded through the Emergency Fund must meet the same stringent work requirements imposed on other TANF recipients. They have 12 weeks to find a job — an extremely difficult task in today’s labor market — after which they must meet their work requirement through other work activities, such as unpaid work. A limited number of recipients may be permitted to pursue short-term education and training.
The nation’s governors know the facts about the TANF Emergency Fund, and that’s why both Democratic and Republican governors — such as Haley Barbour, Governor of Mississippi (and former head of the Republican National Committee) — have called on Congress to extend it.