States Reconsidering Education and Training for TANF Recipients
Jan 26, 2011
During tough economic times when jobs are scarce, increasing access to education and training for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients makes sense. Three states are making important strides to increase access to such training.
Last year Connecticut passed An Act Concerning Children in the Recession as recommended by its Children in the Recession Legislative Task Force. Among other provisions, this law makes attending a two- or four-year degree program an approved work activity under the TANF program when the unemployment rate exceeds 8 percent for three months. The Connecticut Department of Social Services is currently working on implementing this provision.
In Massachusetts, Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) introduced legislation to encourage low-income parents receiving assistance to obtain vocational educational training by allowing it to count for their work requirement and providing a time limit extension to complete a training program if they were making satisfactory progress. This built upon the Massachusetts Asset Development Commission's final report, which called on Massachusetts to "do more to help low-to-moderate income families build the assets they need to become economically self-sufficient and reduce their need for government financial assistance" including promoting education and skill development. While the legislation did not pass last session, Sen. Eldridge has already reintroduced it again as An Act Promoting Asset Development and Financial Stability.
And in Nebraska, Sen. John Harms (D-Scotts Bluff) has introduced LB 507, which would allow TANF recipients under age 24 to be deemed to be engaged in a work activity for a month if they pursue education, including basic skills and English as a Second Language, for at least 20 hours per week. While Nebraska has made strides on TANF and education in the past, such as by allowing TANF recipients to pursue postsecondary education for their work requirement, some regulations still placed unnecessary limits based on age. This bill has been referred to the Health and Human Services Committee and is scheduled for a hearing at the beginning of February.
Over the years, CLASP has continually advocated for improving access and success in education and training for low-income individuals, including TANF recipients. In her April testimony before the Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, CLASP senior policy analyst Julie Strawn testified that "while a few states are managing to provide effective education and training services for low-income parents in spite of [TANF] federal policy barriers, their achievements are the exception, not the norm." Allowing recipients to participate in education and training makes even more sense when jobs are scarce.
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