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July 18, 2003
Critical Senate Vote on TANF and Child Care Next Week
On Wednesday, July 23, the Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to vote on a bill to reauthorize the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant and set limits for child care funding that is both punitive and unacceptable. Put forward by the Senate Finance Committee chair, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), this bill, Personal Responsibility and Individual Development for Everyone (PRIDE), is similar to the bill approved by the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year (H.R. 4). If the PRIDE bill is approved next week by the Senate Finance Committee, TANF work mandates for families will dramatically increase, fewer children will receive child care, and bipartisan efforts to improve the well-being of children and families on TANF will be lost.
THIS COMMITTEE VOTE IS CRITICAL. The opportunity to develop a bipartisan consensus bill that is less punitive and more supportive of individuals moving from welfare to work must be given a chance. To move forward at this time with a TANF reauthorization that substantially and inappropriately increases work requirements for participants and ignores the need to significantly increase child care funding would severely affect those in need of real help and support. Once the Senate Finance Committee approves the bill, debate on the floor of the United States Senate is likely to occur after Labor Day. There may be limited opportunity to effect the needed and substantial changes necessary at that time.
Now is the time to take action by contacting your U.S. Senators to express your concerns about plans to move ahead with TANF and child care legislation that fails to improve the well-being of children and families on TANF and fails to adequately fund child care.
CALL YOUR U.S. SENATORS. Ask your Senators to OPPOSE Senate Finance Committee action on the punitive and unacceptable TANF reauthorization (PRIDE) bill currently before it.
Your Senator can be reached through the Capitol switchboard at 202/224-3121.
- Tell your Senators to oppose any Senate Finance Committee TANF reauthorization bill that creates excessive work requirements and fails to help those who face real barriers to work such as those needing substance abuse treatment.
- Tell your Senators that current law that allows mothers with a child under 6 years old to meet their TANF requirements by working 20 hours must be maintained.
- Tell your Senators that child care funding must be increased by at least $5.5 billion. Currently, only 1 in 7 children eligible for child care actually receive it. The number of children and families unable to obtain child care is certain to go up if Congress fails to add additional resources.
- Tell your Senators to restore funding for the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) to $2.8 billion, an amount that was included in the 1996 TANF law.
Last year, the House passed a reauthorization of TANF that did not become law. Earlier this year, the House passed a TANF bill, H.R. 4, that is almost identical to last year's version. We have concerns with numerous provisions in H.R. 4. The bill contains new mandates regarding work hours and participation rates; provides only a $200 million increase in child care funding (less than 5%) over five years; fails to restore the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG); and fails to address barriers to work, such as the need for substance abuse treatment and for expanded vocational and educational opportunities. For a detailed analysis you can link to our description at: http://www.cwla.org/advocacy/tanf4summary.htm.
The federal TANF block grant program was established with the passage of the 1996 welfare reform bill. In 2002, the Senate Finance Committee passed a bipartisan bill that made some improvements to the program and would have extended it for an additional five years. The full Senate never considered that bill. It included:
The proposal now being considered by the Senate Finance Committee contains none of the improvements approved last year. The new proposal contains some provisions similar to the House-passed bill:
- improvements on the TANF work requirements;
- increased child care funding of $5.5 billion;
- state flexibility in addressing substance abuse;
- continued Medicaid coverage for former TANF recipients;
- restoration of benefits for legal immigrants;
- expansion of education and training as activities that count toward work requirements; and
- improved procedures for assessing and treating barriers to employment.
For more information, contact John Sciamanna, CWLA Senior Government Affairs Associate, at 202/639-4919 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Increases work requirements for single mothers without recognizing the need to provide training and other assistance, such as substance abuse services, expanded child care, and vocational services that would help move these adults to permanent work.
- Increases the 20 hour work requirement for single mothers who have a child under 6 years old to work 37 hours regardless of the availability of adequate child care.
- Allows substance abuse counseling or treatment to be considered a qualified work activity for no more than three months in any consecutive 24-month period, a restriction that fails to respect the time it takes to successfully engage in treatment.
- Fails to extend the Transitional Medicaid Assistance that provides continued Medicaid health care coverage for adults leaving TANF.
- Fails to restore funding for the Social Services Block Grant, the funding level that was agreed to in the 1996 TANF law.
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