During the August Recess
August 9, 2002
Background: The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program will expire at the end of September, and must be reauthorized by then with important program improvements. Recent statements by members of both parties have suggested that lawmakers may simply renew the program as-is for one year and put off until next year any major changes in TANF. It is very important that work on reauthorizing and improving TANF be completed this year. With increasing state budget deficits and new national-security related demands on the federal budget, it is important that TANF programs be improved and funding levels, especially for child care, be set this year.
The House of Representatives passed its version of TANF reauthorization (H.R. 4737) last May. (See joint letter with Catholic Charities USA on our website, www.usccb.org/sdwp, on why we were unable to support the House bill). The next action on reauthorization will take place in the Senate. Following the Senate Finance Committee's approval in July of the Work, Opportunity, and Responsibility for Kids (WORK) Act of 2002, the full Senate must now act on the bill. The Senate WORK Act contained improvements over the House bill, and will make TANF more effective at supporting those struggling to move from poverty to self-sufficiency and improving the lives of children. Maintaining the current hourly work requirements, additional flexibility in counting educational activities as work, giving states options to provide benefits to legal immigrants, and increasing mandatory child care funding by $5.5 billion over five years, are among the improvements in the Senate WORK Act. (For more information on the bill that passed the Senate Finance Committee, see Action Alert dated June 27 on our website).
Action Requested: While your Senators and Representatives are home during the August recess, make every effort to visit or call them and stress the importance of passing a bill to improve and reauthorize TANF this year. Urge Senators to support additional resources to meet the child care needs of low-income families, while maintaining the WORK Act's work provisions, and to provide full restoration of benefits eligibility for legal immigrants, when the WORK Act comes to the Senate floor.
For more information on the USCCB's policies and priorities for TANF reauthorization, see the July 20, 2002 Action Alert, the June 17, 2002 letter to the Senate Finance Committee, the April 11, 2002 testimony before the House Ways and Means Human Resources subcommittee, and other materials on our website, www.usccb.org/sdwp.
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. Specific policies we believe are important for achieving our goal include: Ending the family cap; Removing the barriers to two parent families receiving assistance; Restoring benefits to legal immigrants; Giving states greater flexibility to count job training, vocational and post-secondary education as work; and Ensuring that those leaving welfare have access to transitional Medicaid and food stamps benefits.
For more information, contact Kathy Curran at email@example.com or 202-541-3188