CLASP Comments on U.S. House Discussion Draft on TANF Reauthorization
By Randi Hall
On Friday, July 10, 2015, the Subcommittee on Human Resources within the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Ways and Means released a discussion draft of a bill to reauthorize the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program for fiscal years (FYs) 2016-2020. TANF has been operating under short-term extensions since 2010. The draft includes provisions that are garnering bipartisan support, and the subcommittee may try to move this bill forward before leaving for the August Congressional recess or in early September upon their return.
Last week, CLASP submitted comments on the discussion draft bill. These comments assess whether the proposed changes would address states’ likelihood of accomplishing TANF’s dual goals of alleviating poverty among children and families while creating effective pathways to economic security.
In earlier testimony for the record submitted to the subcommittee in May, CLASP documented the primary reasons for TANF’s ineffectiveness as a safety net:
- The block grant funding structure of TANF means less money in real terms has been available for income support and work programs
- The Work Participation Rate (WPR), which has been the primary performance measure for TANF, does not provide states an incentive to operate effective programs.
We are pleased that the discussion draft bill makes critical changes to improve the WPR, which CLASP has long advocated. The bill would give states greater flexibility to serve individuals with barriers to employment and other disabilities, and it would count more education and training activities toward the WPR to support TANF recipients in obtaining the skills and credentials needed to sustain employment.
However, the bill does not provide states with additional federal resources. Moreover, the elimination of some of the tools that states have previously used to meet the WPR may make it challenging for some states to meet the rate. We remain particularly concerned that the proposed elimination of these WPR tools, when combined with the costs of providing employment services to the neediest participants, may lead states that fail to meet the new rate to respond by restricting access to cash assistance for the most vulnerable families, rather than by expanding services. The draft bill proposes new outcome measures for TANF’s effectiveness in connecting recipients to employment, but not for its effectiveness as a safety net.
Our comments, therefore, provide recommendations for how to build on the discussion draft to strengthen both parts of TANF’s dual mission. We look forward to working with the Congress to improve the bill and ultimately reauthorizing TANF.
To read CLASP’s comments and recommendations on the discussion draft bill, click here.
To read CLASP’s more detailed comments on the proposed employment outcome measures, click here.