Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF): Issues for the 110th Congress Page: 2 of 40
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Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF):
Issues for the 110th Congress
Enactment of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA, P.L. 109-171) ended
more than four years of congressional debate on "reauthorizing" the block grant of
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The DRA extended funding for
most TANF grants through FY2010, except TANF supplemental grants which expire
after FY2008. Supplemental grants go to 17 states that have high population growth
or low historic funding in TANF's predecessor programs per poor person.
TANF is best known as the funding source for welfare benefits for low-income
families with children. In 2005, about two million families per month received
TANF cash welfare, down from the historical high of five million families receiving
cash welfare in the mid-1990s. In 2005, about three in ten poor children were in
families that received TANF cash welfare. However, TANF funds a wide range of
"nonwelfare" benefits and services for needy families with children. In FY2005,
spending on activities related to traditional cash welfare accounted for a little more
than half of total TANF funding, while other "nonwelfare" activities accounted for
the remainder. Still, most issues that Congress has debated in the past, and will
potentially consider in the 110th Congress, relate to TANF cash welfare.
The DRA revised the rules relating to TANF work participation standards for
families receiving welfare, by requiring states to either increase participation in
activities or reduce their welfare caseloads to meet these numerical performance
standards. Many states had to act quickly to avoid failing these standards, which were
effective in FY2007. Further, states must engage 90% of their two-parent welfare
caseload in activities - a fairly high standard that President Bush's FY2008 budget
seeks to eliminate. The DRA also required the Department of Health and Human
Services (HHS) to issue regulations defining the specific activities that may be
counted toward the participation standards. The regulations, published June 29,
2006, clarified that the participation standards focus on work or short-term job
preparation. This raises old issues of whether a "work-first" orientation is best for
those who have barriers to employment, such as very low levels of educational
attainment or disabilities.
Congress might consider proposals left over from TANF reauthorization
proposals, but not included in DRA, to loosen some rules for nonwelfare spending,
such as allowing carry-over funds to be used for nonwelfare benefits and services and
to consider any TANF child care or transportation benefits "nonwelfare" and not
subject to the rules associated with welfare benefits. Congress might also consider
improving the information available on how TANF funds are used for nonwelfare
benefits. Additionally, legislation that affects foster care, child welfare services for
abused and neglected children, and child care funding would have an effect on
TANF, since large amounts of TANF "nonwelfare" dollars are used to supplement
dedicated federal and state funding for these programs. This report will be updated
as legislative events warrant.
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Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF): Issues for the 110th Congress, report, October 9, 2007; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc814755/m1/2/: accessed February 17, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.