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 the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, which extended funding for the TANF block grant through September 30, 2016.

In July 2015, the Subcommittee on Human Resources within the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Ways and Means released a discussion draft of a bill to reauthorize TANF for fiscal years 2016-2020, which CLASP commented on. Since the discussion draft was released, it has not been moved on. The Committee on Ways and Means moved on six smaller bills this year that included some of the changes in the discussion draft but did not fully reauthorize the program. The EMPOWER Act of 2016 was introduced in the Senate in June 2016 which proposed to reauthorize the program through fiscal year 2021, but no further action has been taken since its introduction. 

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.

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

July 17, 2015 | Elizabeth Lower-Basch
Comments on Discussion Draft of TANF Reauthorization Bill Elizabeth Lower-Basch submitted comments to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources on the discussion draft of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) reauthorization bill.

July 23, 2015 | Anna Cielinksi and Elizabeth Lower-Basch
Comments on Proposed TANF Outcome Measures 
These comments on the performance measures supplement CLASP’s formal testimony for the record on the discussion draft bill. We begin with some overall thoughts on the role of outcome measures in TANF. We then provide specific comments on the measures, goals, data sources, timing, and sanctions for failure.

Feb 06, 2013  |  Elizabeth Lower-Basch
Goals for TANF Reauthorization  This updated Policy Brief argues that poverty allievation 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.

May 29, 2015  |  Elizabeth Lower-Basch
TANF 101: Cash Assistance  This updated Policy Brief summarizes trends in cash assistance since welfare reform -- declining caseloads, progress in employment and poverty reduction in the early years, and an intense focus on meeting work participation rate requirements.

May 29, 2015  |  Elizabeth Lower-Basch
TANF 101: 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.

May 29, 2015  |  Elizabeth Lower-Basch
TANF 101: Work Participation Rate  This updated Policy Brief reviews the work participation rate for families receiving cash assistance as the primary performance measure for states.

July 02, 2015  |  Randi Hall
TANF 101: TANF in the Great Recession  This Policy Brief highlights the weakness of TANF as a safety net during the Great Recession and the reasons for the program's unresponsiveness in alleviating economic deterrents among low-income families.

Apr 30, 2015 | Elizabeth Lower-Basch
Ideas to Improve Welfare Programs to Help More Families Find Work and Escape Poverty Testimony for the record to the House Ways and Means Committee on the effectivess of TANF as a safety net program.

Dec 09, 2010  |  Elizabeth Lower-Basch
2011 Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Extension
In late November, the House and Senate extended the 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 05, 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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