Program That Helped Alleviate Hardship, Create Jobs Set to End Thursday

Sep 29, 2010

Pacifica Radio posted a segment on the TANF Emergency Fund's expiration that quotes Ms. Lower-Basch. Listen to the segment.

By Elizabeth Lower-Basch

Most of the tens of thousands of individuals working at jobs subsidized by the TANF Emergency Fund will work their last day tomorrow, receive their last paycheck, and then try to figure out what happens next.

This is because on Sept. 30, 2010, the TANF Emergency Fund expires.  States will no longer be able to receive federal funding for increased spending on cash assistance, short-term benefits, or subsidized jobs.   This is incredibly disappointing. Millions in the nation face unprecedented hardship, and this program helped to alleviate some of that hardship.

The TANF Emergency Fund was created in February 2009 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to assist states in expanding services during the recession.   At that time, most people did not realize how deep or long-lasting the recession would be.  Congress did not expect that in September 2010, unemployment would still be stuck at nearly 10 percent.  CLASP has been calling for an extension of the Emergency Fund since January, and such an extension was included in President Obama's budget proposal for FY 2011.  The House has included such an extension in several bills, but the Senate has failed to pass an extension of the Emergency Fund.

The last attempt occurred Tuesday, when Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Robert Casey (D-Penn.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) sought "unanimous consent" for a stop-gap measure that would have extended the program for three months.  However, Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi objected to the motion, and it failed.

Although this program has received widespread and bi-partisan support at the state and local levels, the Republican leadership in the Senate has refused to allow it to be included in the Continuing Resolution, the bill that will extend government operations until all FY 2011 budget bills pass.

Fortunately, all is not lost for some workers. Illinois used TANF Emergency Fund dollars to employ more than 26,000 people since April through its Putting Illinois to Work program. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announced recently the state would use its own funds to continue the program for two months.   This will allow workers to stay on the job while the state waits to see whether Congress will revive the Emergency Fund when it returns to session after the November elections.

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