Congress Considers TANF Emergency Fund Extension

Mar 05, 2010

by Elizabeth Lower-Basch

The TANF Emergency Fund, created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, is scheduled to end on September 30, 2010. This fund has been a valuable tool in promoting assistance to vulnerable families, and should be extended as families are still facing high levels of unemployment and need.

The Senate is currently considering a jobs bill to help individuals who are unemployed.  Senators Kerry and Murray offered an amendment to the bill to extend and expand the TANF Emergency Fund which provides extra resources to states to help low-income families with children. This amendment failed to receive the 60 votes needed to overcome a procedural hurdle, and thus will not make it into the bill, although it was supported by a majority of the Senate.

The Kerry-Murray amendment would have extended the TANF Emergency Fund for six months, until March 31, 2011.  It would have provided an additional $1.3 billion in funding for the extension, allowed each state to receive up to 15% of the state's annual TANF block grant, and added work supports as a new category of spending eligible for reimbursement.  It would also have provided $1.3 billion for Workforce Investment Act youth activities, including summer jobs. 

On the House side, Rep. Jim McDermott, the chair of the income Security and Family Support subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee has introduced HR 4564, which would extend the Emergency Fund for a full year, allow states to access 50 percent of their block grant amount in FY 2011, add work supports as a new category of spending eligible for reimbursement, and increase the reimbursement rate for subsidized employment to 100 percent.  While this bill is unlikely to move on its own, signing on as a cosponsor is a way that Representatives can show their support for extending the Emergency Fund as part of a jobs bill.

While the Emergency Fund does not expire until September, extending it now will allow states to plan their activities for next year.  States are more likely to invest the time in developing programs if they know that the funding stream will continue into next year. Please urge your Representative to tell House and Ways and Means Committee Leadership to include the TANF Emergency Fund extension as part of the jobs bill.

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