With recent data suggesting that childhood poverty is at the highest its ever been, stakeholder and policymakers alike are coming together to determine how to address the factors that impact poverty and how to better implement programs that support families who suffer the implications of poverty, unemployment and the lagging economy. Representatives Danny Davis (D-IL), and Gwen Moore (D-WI) hosted a briefing with colleagues Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Karen Bass (D-CA), and Corrine Brown (D-FL) on the importance of social safety nets like the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program, especially in times of economic crisis. One overarching theme of the briefing was the need to align child welfare, TANF, and fatherhood initiatives to better meet the needs of vulnerable families and communities and ultimately ensure child well-being and family preservation. Davis has introduced legislation, the Julia Carson Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Families Act, H.R. 2193, which would increase the incomes for noncustodial and working parents through an enhanced earnings supplement. Moore spoke about her RISE out of Poverty Act which has not been introduced but is aimed at reducing child poverty. Among other things, the legislation would set a new baseline that is adjusted for inflation, improve TANF’s ability to respond to a recession, permanently authorize a TANF funding stream for subsidized employment, and revise the work participation rules for families receiving cash assistance.
The briefing also consisted of a panel of experts who spoke to the importance of recent child welfare and TANF extensions, but insisted that comprehensive reform is the only way to ensure that families get the best support and resources. Lisalyn Jacobs of Legal Momentum urged Congress to push for TANF reform that focuses less on rewarding states for reducing their TANF caseloads, and instead emphasizes providing more benefits that meet the needs of families. She also pointed out that unlike the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, TANF is not responding to the needs of families facing long-term unemployment and those otherwise living in poverty.
Congress has passed a short-term TANF extension that will provide grants to states through the remainder of the year. Both the House and Senate have held hearings on the bill, but they will need to pass reauthorizing legislation or another extension before Congress leaves for the December break