TANF Reauthorization

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant was scheduled for reauthorization in 2010. Congress, however, did not work on legislation to reauthorize the program and instead extended the TANF block grant multiple times. The most recent extension was part of H.J.Res.124, the Continuing Appropriations Resolution for 2015. The "CRomnibus" has extended funding for the TANF block grant through September 30, 2015.

Authority for federal TANF grants lapsed briefly in October 2013 as a result of the partial government shutdown.  This resulted in disruption of programs and services in multiple states.  This provides evidence of the hazards of short-term extensions.  Congress should provide a longer term extension or reauthorization in order to provide stability and certainty to state TANF programs.

In March 2013, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would have blocked the Administration from granting TANF waivers,  The Senate has not brought up comparable legislation, but due to the uncertainty over the possibility of Congressional action, no states have  yet submitted waiver requests.  As CLASP testified before the House Ways and Means Committee, we believe that such waivers could be a valuable means of testing new approaches to improving the work programs under TANF.

Since FY 2011, the Supplemental Grants have not been funded. These additional allotments were created by the 1996 welfare bill to adjust for historical inequalities in the amount of funding received by different states. The decrease began when the Claims Resolution Act did not provide fully FY 2011 funding for these grants. On June 22, 2011, Lloyd Doggett introduced a bill to provide funding for these grants for the duration of FY 2011, but it did not pass.

The TANF block grant provides funding to states that supports cash assistance programs and a wide range of other benefits and services for low-income families.  The Administration for Children and Families has recently revised the data states are required to report on their use of TANF funds. CLASP supports this revision, and believes that the changes will improve the practical utility of the data for both federal and state-level stakeholders.

When Congress turns to reauthorize TANF, the goals should be to:

  • Focus on alleviating poverty and preventing material hardship among children and families, especially those who are particularly vulnerable due to circumstances such as disability, domestic violence, or homelessness.
  • Create effective pathways to economic opportunity, including access to mainstream education and training and individualized services for those with barriers to employment.

Resources and Publications

FEB 06, 2013  |  Elizabeth Lower-Basch
Goals for TANF Reauthorization  This updated Policy Brief argues that poverty alievation and prevention of material hardship and creation of effective pathways to economic opportunity should be the goals of TANF reauthorization and recommends program changes that would more effectively promote these goals.

Jan 21, 2011  |  Elizabeth Lower-Basch
Cash Assistance since Welfare Reform   This updated Policy Brief summarizes trends in cash assistance since welfare reform -- declining caseloads, progress in employment and poverty reduction in the early years, with setbacks since 2001, and an intense focus on meeting work participation rate requirements. 

Jan 21, 2011  |  Elizabeth Lower-Basch
The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Block Grant  This updated Policy Brief explores the wide range of programs for low-income families supported by the TANF block grant and the declining share of the grant dedicated to cash assistance. It also highlights the degree to which the grant has been eroded by inflation and population growth.

Dec 09, 2010  |  Elizabeth Lower-Basch
2011 Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Extension
In late November, the House and Senate extended the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant for the duration of federal fiscal year 2011, as part of H.R. 4783, the Claims Resolution Act of 2010. President Obama recently signed it into law (P.L. 111-291). This fact sheet summarizes the changes made by it.

oct 5, 2010  |  Elizabeth Lower-Basch
Lessons from the TANF Emergency Fund  In September 2010, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on Welfare Reform: A New Conversation on Women and Poverty.  CLASP's testimony for the record focuses on the experience of the TANF Emergency Fund and the lessons that can be taken from it for reauthorization.

Apr 22, 2010  |  Julie Strawn
The Role of Education and Training in the TANF Program  On April 22, Julie Strawn testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the importance of education and training in today's economy, and the role that TANF can play in helping low-income parents obtain economic opportunity and better the lives of their children.

MAR 25, 2010  |  Elizabeth Lower-Basch
TANF's Role in Providing Assistance to Struggling Families  Testimony for the record for House Ways and Means Committee Hearing on TANF's Role in Providing Assistance to Struggling Families.

Jul 24, 2009  |  Elizabeth Lower-Basch
Looking Ahead to TANF Reauthorization  This presentation provides an overview of the trends in welfare receipt and work since the 1996 creation of the TANF block grant and highlights the modest levels of caseload increase in the current recession. It concludes with some thoughts about TANF reauthorization, scheduled for 2010.

View all CLASP publications on Temporary Assistance.

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