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February 6, 2003
Immediate Action Needed
House to Vote on Welfare and Child Care
On either February 11 or February 12, the U.S. House of Representatives will debate and vote on the reauthorization of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, and the Child Care and Development Fund. The legislation, H.R. 4, is the same legislation passed by the House last year, however, it was never passed by the full Congress. H.R. 4 requires increased work requirements for single mothers to 40 hours per week; reduces state flexibility to provide education and training; freezes TANF funding for the next 5 years; and provides only 4% in child care funds next year with no additional funds guaranteed for the following four years. It also eliminates the income eligibility standard for child care, removing the only way to measure how many eligible children are actually receiving a child care subsidy.
Call your U.S. Representative. Ask your Representative to oppose H.R. 4. You can reach all House offices through the Capitol switchboard at 202/224-3121.
The House will be voting on H.R. 4, a bill that combines the TANF, child care, and abstinence education reauthorization proposals that were approved last year by the U.S. House of Representatives. Unlike last year's legislation, this bill has not been voted on in any committee, instead it is going directly to the House floor for a vote. Since last Spring when the House adopted the bill, state budgets are in greater deficit and the unemployment rate is higher, yet this legislation still leaves funding flat and requires new work requirements on TANF recipients.
H.R. 4 increases work requirements for single mothers to 40 hours per week, reduces state flexibility to provide education and training, but offers no new resources to assist families that are working and still in poverty. The bill allows substance abuse counseling or treatment to be considered a qualified work activity, but for no more than three months in any consecutive 24 month period.
H.R. 4 also includes language that proposes, but does not guarantee, increases in child care funding over the five years. The bill guarantees a $200 million increase only for FY 2004. The remaining increases of $200 million a year through FY 2008 are discretionary-subject to annual congressional approval. Future child care increases will have to compete for scarce dollars against other key child welfare programs, including the Promoting Safe and Stable Families program, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, and the Child Welfare Services program.
Ask your Representative to oppose H.R. 4 and to demand that this legislation be fully debated in committee before the entire House votes on it. New TANF legislation must:
Use CWLA Kids' Advocate Online to write/e-mail your Representative and Senators with your own or a CWLA-suggested letter on these issues. Access CWLA Kids' Advocate Online at http://www.cwla.org/advocacy/kidsadvocate.htm.
- Increase TANF funding by the rate of inflation over the next five years. Funding for TANF has remained flat since 1996. Without an increase, it will lose more than 22% of its value by FY 2008. In some states TANF caseloads are increasing and even where caseloads have declined, TANF inadequately funds the services necessary to help support low-income families making the transition to self-sufficiency.
- Increase funding for child care by no less than $11.2 billion. Regardless of whether work requirements are increased in TANF, child care funding needs to be increased to provide more child care services to more families while also improving the quality of those services. Currently, less than 1 in 7 of eligible children receive child care assistance.
- Increase funding for the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) to $2.8 billion, the level agreed to in 1996. SSBG is a significant source of federal funds for adoption, foster care, and child protection services.
- Recognize that substance abuse is a barrier to employment and provide up to at least six months of substance abuse treatment services as work activity for TANF recipients.
- Give states flexibility to target services and provide education and training.
- Extend current child welfare waiver authority, but reject broad authority contained in H.R. 4 that allows the Secretaries of the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, Agriculture, and Housing to waive rules for programs such as child care, public housing, food stamps, job training and TANF. This "super-waiver authority" could shift federal funding and effectively lead to block grants for many programs. Under this proposal, states could request waivers to reduce payments to child care providers by no longer using a market-based rate and child care quality set-asides could be eliminated. This new authority could also undermine the protections in current law for children and families in many programs with little opportunity for input or oversight. These protections should not be waived.
For more information, contact John Sciamanna, CWLA Senior Government Affairs Associate, at 202/639-4919 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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