Thanks for your work on TANF Reauthorization! On Wednesday, June 26, the Senate Finance Committee voted 13-8 to approve the Work, Opportunity, and Responsibility for Kids (WORK) Act of 2002, a bill to reauthorize the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program for five years. Your calls, visits and letters to Senators paid off -- while there's still room for improvement, the WORK Act will move on to the Senate floor with many provisions to improve TANF and make it more effective at supporting those struggling to move from poverty to self-sufficiency and improving the lives of children. Among the positive provisions of the WORK Act approved by the Committee are several that reflect the Conference's priorities and polices for TANF reauthorization, including:
- Maintaining both the current 30-hour work activity requirement and the lower standard 20 hours -- for mothers with children under six.
- Giving states more flexibility to count educational activities as work: states can count vocational education, including community college, as work for 24 months (current law is 12 months), and may allow a percentage of TANF recipients to participate in programs that combine work and post-secondary education, such as Maine's "Parents as Scholars" program.
- Allowing up to six months in programs to address barriers to employment, such as substance abuse treatment and mental health treatment.
- Giving states options to provide benefits to legal immigrants.
- Extending and improving the Transitional Medical Assistance program for five years.
- Increasing mandatory child care funding by $5.5 billion over five years.
- Providing for grants for programs to support healthy marriages.
- Giving states flexibility in applying work requirements to full-time caretakers of family member with disabilities.
- Providing additional funding for the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG).
- Requiring states to work with all TANF recipients to develop an Individual Responsibility Plan, and review the plan periodically, including before imposing a sanction.
- Ending state policies that make it harder for two-parent families to receive TANF assistance.
ACTION REQUESTED: Call your Senators and urge them to support these aspects of the WORK Act. Also, ask them to support the following improvements to the WORK Act:
- Ending the family cap
- Full restoration of benefits eligibility for legal immigrants
- Extending to a full year transitional food stamps for families leaving TANF
- Providing enough resources to meet the child care needs of low-income families
- · Restoring SSBG funding to 2.8 billion per year, as called for in the 1996 welfare reform law.
Contact your Senators through the Capitol Switchboard, 202-224-3121
For more information on the USCCB's position on TANF reauthorization, see materials on our website (www.usccb.org/sdwp), including the April 11, 2002 testimony before the House Ways and Means Human Resources subcommittee and the June 17, 2002 letter to the Senate Finance Committee , or contact Kathy Curran at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-541-3188