By Cara Baldari and John Sciamanna
The verdict is out: 20 years later, the only federal cash assistance program for low-income families desperately needs an overhaul.
In 1996, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program was enacted — a historic welfare reform initiative whose core values have since gone askew. States have overwhelmingly used TANF funds for everything except its original intent: reducing child poverty and getting families back to work.
Under the program’s constricting work and time-limit requirements, just under 25 percent of all poor families with children receive cash assistance today. States have placed such harsh restrictions on benefits that families can’t access the help they need and can’t escape the cycle of poverty.
If reformed properly, TANF can still work. Studies show that when families receive a boost in income, it promotes their children’s healthy development and increases their chance of future success. Lawmakers must make this a priority and put children front and center in any future TANF reform.
Here are some ways Congress can improve TANF to directly impact child poverty. [Read More...]