TANF Extended for Six Months

Sep 24, 2012

 

By Elizabeth Lower-Basch

Concerns about the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) extension being held hostage in an election-year conflict over waivers proved groundless, as Congress included a six-month extension of TANF, without changes, as part of the Continuing Resolution passed last week.  This extension was critical, as TANF provides funding for child care, job training, and other services for low-income families, as well as cash assistance.  Without an extension, TANF funding would have expired on September 30th, jeopardizing these essential programs, and creating significant problems for state governments.

The Continuing Resolution, which provides funding for all government programs for the next six months, was the last piece of legislation cleared by Congress before adjourning until after the election. When Congress returns in November for a “lame duck” session, it will have to deal with the pending deadline for developing a plan to cut the deficit in order to avoid automatic budget cuts, or “sequestration,” as well as the scheduled expiration of Bush-era tax cuts.  TANF is not subject to the cuts under sequestration; however, it could be affected by the deficit reduction plan that is agreed to.

Before adjourning, the House of Representatives also passed a resolution “disapproving” of the welfare waiver guidance issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in July.  Contrary to a lot of the recent partisan rhetoric, this guidance recognized the limits of the process measure currently used, and invited states to submit proposals to experiment with alternative approaches to measuring performance under TANF that would strengthen and increase employment outcomes. A recent GAO report found that eight states have expressed interest in waivers since HHS issued the guidance, but none states have submitted formal applications.

If passed by the Senate and also signed by the President, this resolution would prevent HHS from implementing the guidance.  However, the Senate has not taken up the resolution and is unlikely to do so in the lame duck session.  States will likely wait until after the election to decide whether to proceed with requesting waivers.

 

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