New Illinois Law Improves State's TANF Program

Jun 30, 2010

By Josh Bone

A new Illinois law, effective July 1, 2010, will make significant improvements to Illinois' TANF program.  The law, signed by the governor on January 21, expands TANF eligibility, improves TANF program rules and services, and takes an important step to better serve victims of sexual violence.

The law will increase the number of people who are eligible for TANF.  In the past, some people in Illinois who earned as little as 30 percent of the federal poverty line were ineligible for TANF.  Under the new law, the state will not consider any earned income below 50 percent of the federal poverty line when making TANF eligibility determinations.  This will open the doors of the TANF program to many more of the 680,000 Illinoisans living in deep poverty

Additionally, the law makes a number of changes that will help the program better serve Illinois' TANF population.  The law provides new TANF enrollees with a 30 day grace period before they must sign up for TANF work activities, and shortens the amount of time they will likely have to wait before receiving their first benefits checks.  Additionally, the new law increases from two-thirds to three-quarters the percentage of TANF recipients' earned income that is disregarded when determining continuing TANF eligibility.

Finally, the law will improve outcomes for TANF recipients who have been victims of sexual violence.  Understanding that TANF requirements may conflict with the goals of protecting and aiding victims, Illinois has offered a Domestic Violence Exclusion, which allows the program to provide a victim with two-month renewable waivers of any programmatic requirements that, if enforced, would increase the risks to the victim or would unfairly punish the victim.  Under the new law, the waivers can last up to six months before requiring a redetermination, and can now cover victims of sexual violence as well as victims of domestic violence (the name has been changed from Domestic Violence Exclusion to Family Violence Exclusion).

Illinois ought to be applauded for providing a crucial leg up to some of its most vulnerable populations during this time of economic struggle.   

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