In Focus: State TANF Policies and Data
Aug 19, 2013 | Permalink »
Support for Low-Income Families Falls Again
Spending data released by the Administration for Children and Families shows that state spending of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and related state maintenance of effort (MOE) funds declined again in federal fiscal year 2012. States reported spending or transferring to related programs a total of $31.36 billion, down nearly $2 billion from fiscal year 2011.
As a result, spending declined in nearly every category on which TANF and MOE funds may be used. The categories with the largest decreases were basic assistance (down $622 million), child care (down $500 million, including both spending within TANF and transfers to the Child Care and Development Block Grant) and work-related activities (down $485 million, driven largely by a $356 million decline in spending on wage subsidies). The category with the largest increase was “other non-assistance” with a $129 million increase. Data collected from the states in 2011 showed that this category was used to report spending in a wide range of areas, but that the largest shares were spending on child welfare services and TANF program expenditures such as case management.
Most states had less federal TANF funds available to them in FY 2012 than in FY 2011, as they had less carryover funds from the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF) remaining. Three states were required to return a portion of their awarded funds based on reconciliation of their final spending reports. This process also led to many states retaining the remaining carryover funds as unobligated balances. In addition, the 17 states that had historically received additional funding from the supplemental grants also experienced the loss of these grants, which were not funded in 2012. Total state spending climbed while MOE fell by $693 million, with California accounting for $317 million of that decline.
Jul 17, 2013 | Permalink »
Steps in the Right Direction: States Improve TANF Programs
While TANF is an insufficient safety net, as we have discussed, a handful of states have recently done the right thing for low-income families by passing laws that improve their TANF programs. California, Minnesota, Illinois and Nebraska have all enacted laws that strengthen TANF programs to serve needy families.
Asset Limits: The Illinois state legislature passed a bill that removes the restrictive asset limit eligibility requirements for TANF applicants and recipients. Under the previous state rule, families could not have more than $3,000 in savings without losing TANF eligibility. This meant that low-income families could never move towards financial security by building their savings. By removing the asset limit altogether, Illinois will allow needy families to save for emergency needs, unexpected expenses or perhaps even a downpayment on a car. Pending the Governor’s signature, Illinois joins Hawaii, which repealed its asset limit earlier this year, and six other states.
Family Caps: While typically TANF cash grants are based on family size, “family cap” laws prevent benefits from increasing to offset the added expenses when children are born into families already receiving TANF. These laws create hardships for needy families, especially affecting the most vulnerable poor infants. Moreover, studies have shown that family caps do not lower birth rates. As part of its budget, Minnesota repealed its family cap law. Similar legislation is still pending in California.
Apr 03, 2013 | Permalink »
Supporting School Success for Children Receiving TANF
This week, committees in the Tennessee legislature approved a bill that would cut parents' TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) cash assistance benefits if their children failed to be promoted to the next grade at school. This proposal is based on an inaccurate and stereotyped belief that poor parents need to be coerced into caring about their children's school achievement. If enacted, it will create new paperwork burdens for schools and welfare agencies, already straining under budget cuts. Most importantly, it risks pushing the most vulnerable children even deeper into poverty.
If legislators really want to improve educational outcomes for children whose families receive TANF, here are some policies that would actually make a difference.