Congress Should Take Action to Restore Flexibility Lost in 2006 Welfare Reauthorization and HHS Regulations

In January 2006, after over three years of short-term extensions, Congress reauthorized the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant as part of the consolidated Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA). The legislative language that was incorporated into the DRA did not reflect the bipartisan welfare reauthorization bill that had been passed by the Senate Finance Committee, or even the bill that had been passed by the House Republicans. Many members of Congress did not have the opportunity to read the bill—let alone to debate and amend it—before they were required to vote on it.

As a result, the welfare reauthorization that was passed into law was deeply flawed. Instead of rewarding states for their efforts to help welfare recipients achieve selfsufficiency, the new law acted as if the past decade of welfare reform had never happened. It substantially increased effective work requirements, while providing only a minimal increase in funding for child care. It removed state flexibility to individualize the work requirements to respond to participants’ real needs. And it failed to incorporate common-sense provisions to improve program operations that had been included in both House and Senate bills and which received bipartisan support.

To learn more, read this brief by Elizabeth Lower-Basch.