In every state, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant supports cash assistance and a wide range of other programs and services for low-income children and families. CLASP conducts policy analysis and provides technical assistance on TANF to state and federal officials and administrators, advocacy organizations, grassroots groups, and research entities.
A Step in the Right Direction, Minnesota Expands Access to TANF Education and Training Activities
The state of Minnesota is taking steps towards increasing access to education activities for poor adults receiving TANF. Signed into law by Governor Mark Dayton (D-MN), bill HF2458, which was sponsored by state Senator Jeff Hayden (D-MN) and Representative Susan Allen (D-MN), expands access to adult basic education (ABE), General Educational Development (GED), English as a Second Language (ESL) and postsecondary education for participants receiving cash assistance from the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP), the state administered TANF program. The legislation, which takes effect July 1, 2014, allows MFIP participants unlimited participation in these education activities as part of their employment plan without requiring enrollment in other work activities.
Almost 40% of MFIP adults have not earned a high school diploma or GED. Prior to the new law’s passage, an MFIP participant who wanted to pursue a degree or credential had to jump through a number of procedural hoops in order to have these activities included in their work plans and could be required to participate in other countable work activities in addition to their studies. This legislation removes these barriers by easing time and hour limitations on education and training work activities and by alleviating the burden of documentation previously required to participate in ABE, ESL or post-secondary activities. Furthermore, MFIP participants will now have the opportunity to pursue four-year degree programs while receiving TANF benefits, and caseworkers must inform participants with a high school diploma or GED that they have the opportunity to participate in postsecondary education or training while receiving TANF. Poor parents, who are MFIP participants, can now pursue educational activities without harsh restrictions.
Another component of the Minnesota legislation allows all participants 12 weeks to pursue job search activities, rather than the previously allowable 6 weeks of job search. This flexibility will provide MFIP participants more opportunity to secure a well-paying job. The changes in the legislation will affect the nearly 70,000 parents – and their children – in the state of Minnesota who receive TANF benefits.
This legislation was promoted by a broad coalition of state advocates in a campaign called “Prosperity for All.” The campaign highlighted that these changes to the MFIP rules would be good for employers and the economy, as well as participants and their children:
- Increased educational attainment will lead to increased earnings for parents. In Minnesota, wages for those who have four-year and advanced degrees have risen while wages for high school graduates have stagnated and fallen, making it hard for poor families to make ends meet.
- As mothers pursue postsecondary education activities, children also fare better academically.
- Minnesota is facing a skills gap – two out of three employers cannot find skilled employees. Allowing MFIP participants to acquire skills through credentials and degrees will help meet employers’ needs. By 2018, about 70% of jobs in Minnesota will require some postsecondary education.
Arbitrary restrictions on education and training for TANF recipients are poorly matched to the demands of today’s economy, and trap TANF families in poverty. CLASP applauds the success of Prosperity for All and Minnesota lawmakers in expanding access to education and training activities and urges other states, and the federal government, to follow suit.
TANF Emergency FundThe American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 created a new TANF Emergency Fund to assist states in expanding services during the recession. READ MORE »
- Elizabeth Lower-Basch | May 29, 2013 New Research Shows Value of Subsidized Employment Programs to Employers, Employees
- Chris Warland and Melissa Young, National Transitional Jobs Network and Elizabeth Lower-Basch, CLASP | Mar 19, 2013 Innovative City and State Funding Approaches to Supporting Subsidized Employment and Transitional Jobs
- Elizabeth Lower-Basch | Feb 28, 2013 Hearing Testimony on Waiving Work Requirements in the TANF Program
- Elizabeth Lower-Basch | Feb 06, 2013 Goals for TANF Reauthorization
- Elizabeth Lower-Basch and Lavanya Mohan | Oct 04, 2012 Alternatives to Drug Testing of TANF Applicants
- Stephanie Schmit, Hannah Matthews, and Olivia Golden | Jul 09, 2014 Thriving Children, Successful Parents: A Two-Generation Approach to Policy
- Elizabeth Lower-Basch | May 08, 2014 CLASP Comments on TANF EBT Access Restrictions
- Apr 21, 2014 Recommended Standards for TANF Payment Card Contracts
- Helly Lee, Elizabeth Lower-Basch, Melissa Boteach, and Megan Martin | Mar 17, 2014 Universal Credit: A Primer
- Elizabeth Lower-Basch, Amy Ellen Duke-Benfield and Lavanya Mohan | Mar 07, 2014 Ensuring Full Credit Under TANF's Work Participation Rate