The Senate Finance Committee has not yet acted on its version of a Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) reauthorization bill. The House has passed its TANF bill (H.R. 4), and the Senate must act soon so that any differences between the bills can be worked out before the TANF program expires on September 30. Senators are back home for the August recess, which gives you an opportunity to call or visit them and make sure they know your TANF priorities.
Senator Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has put out a draft proposal which he would like to be the starting point in the Committee. Some aspects of the proposal are in line with the USCCB's position on TANF reauthorization for example, it maintains the current list of activities that can count as work, includes funding for fatherhood programs and marriage and family formation activities, and moves in the right direction by letting states count treatment for substance abuse or physical or mental disability, or taking care of a disabled child, towards work requirements. However, in other key ways it fails to meet our priorities: it makes no progress in restoring benefit eligibility for legal immigrants; it does not indicate whether, or how much, new child care funding there would be; it eliminates the lower work requirement for parents with children under 6; and it increases the hourly work requirements for participants. (To see the outline of the proposal, go to http://www.chn.org/humanneeds/article.asp?Art=1486)
Call or visit your Senators while they are home during August, especially Senate Finance Committee members, to let them know that TANF reauthorization must include: restoring benefits eligibility to legal immigrants; work requirements that do not make it harder for TANF families to balance work and family; a lower work requirement for parents with children under 6; giving states the option to count genuine education and training as work for two years; an end to state policies that make it harder for two-parent families to qualify for and receive TANF assistance; and new funding for child care subsidies for low-income working families, whether they receive TANF or not. (More information on these and other TANF reauthorization issues is attached).
Senate Finance Committee Members: Chairman Grassley (IA), Hatch (UT), Nickles (OK), Lott (MS), Snowe (ME), Kyl (AZ), Thomas (WY), Santorum (PA), Frist (TN), Smith (OR), Bunning (KY), Ranking Minority Member Baucus (MT), Rockefeller (WV), Daschle (SD), Breaux (LA), Conrad (ND), Graham (FL), Bingaman (NM), Kerry (MA), Lincoln (AR), Jeffords (VT).
USCCB Position: The Catholic Bishops' Conference has consistently called for welfare reform policies that: Protect human life and dignity; strengthen family life; encourage and reward work; preserve a safety net for the vulnerable; build public/private partnerships to overcome poverty; and invest in human dignity. Based on these principles, we believe a central goal for TANF reauthorization should be to address the moral scandal of so much poverty in the richest nation on earth, through policies that support meaningful work, strengthen marriage and family life, and sustain the needy and vulnerable among us, especially our children; and by committing to funding TANF, at a minimum, at current levels adjusted for inflation.
For more information, contact Kathy Curran at email@example.com or 202-541-3188
Fairness for Legal Immigrants: The Bishops= Conference has long advocated for the availability of basic necessities to all those in need, regardless of their race, creed, ethnic origin, or nationality, and we have worked to restore benefit eligibility for legal immigrants. Urge Senators to:
- Restore full benefits eligibility for legal immigrants.
- Not increase the 30-hour work activity requirement
- Continue to apply a lower work standard (20 hours) to mothers with children under six
- Give states the flexibility to allow TANF recipients who would benefit to engage for up to two years in genuine education and training that will lead to better jobs and self-sufficiency
- Include significant new funding for child care for low-income families at least the $5.5 billion called for in last year's Senate Finance Committee bill
- Extend the Transitional Medical Assistance program for five years
- Support appropriate levels of funding in addition to the current basic TANF block grant -- for voluntary programs to support healthy marriages and strong families, focused on services for low-income families, with attention to the problem of domestic violence
- Require states to end policies that make it harder for two-parent families to qualify for and receive TANF assistance
- End family cap laws that deny additional benefits following the birth of a new child