On Friday, May 8, 2020, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced legislation that would provide $10 billion in emergency TANF funding. CWLA has endorsed the legislation. The TANF funding increase of $10 billion would be paid out until the end of the fiscal year 2021 (September 30, 2021) and it could be used for current services including helping “families address and avoid emergencies so that children may be cared for in their own homes or in the homes of relatives.”

In endorsing the legislation, CWLA President & CEO said, “”Providing emergency assistance, especially cash and in-kind support, is even more important during this pandemic than during the 2008-09 recession. The need to strengthen families and to support kinship caregivers across the country could not be more important than it is today. We support Senator Wyden’s bill and hope Congress will act with speed to address this gap.”

Like the 2009 recession relief package of TANF funding, the funds are in addition to the annual $16.5 billion in TANF funds that states have received since the 1996 law was enacted. This relief is nearly double what states received during the 2009-10 recession when the country was not dealing with a pandemic, and unemployment was significantly lower. Key parts of the legislation include:

Establishes a Coronavirus Emergency Assistance Grant Program
• The Pandemic TANF Assistance Act appropriates $10 billion for Coronavirus Emergency Assistance Grants that would allow states, territories, and tribes to provide eligible families short-term cash, non-cash and in-kind assistance to help address their basic needs, prevent household emergencies like foreclosure, forfeiture, and termination of utilities, and avoid children needing to be removed from their homes.
• The Coronavirus Emergency Assistance Grant funds may also be used for subsidized employment for jobs that can be performed remotely or essential work as long as individuals have access to personal protective equipment. When federal and state emergency declarations are lifted, the funds may be used for a broader array of subsidized employment.
• Benefits are limited to individuals negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with incomes up to 200% of the federal poverty line.

Waives TANF Work and Other Requirements
• The Pandemic TANF Assistance Act prohibits states and tribes from sanctioning an individual receiving TANF benefits who is adversely affected by COVID-19.
• States will be held harmless for not achieving and verifying TANF work participation rates, not complying with paternity establishment and child support state requirements, and extending assistance past the 5-year limit.

A recent paper, TANF child-only Cases, released through the Administration for Children and Families in HHS indicated that in FY 2016, of the 619,000 child-only cases covering 1.1 million children, 45 percent are relative caregivers. The paper indicates that “On average, 45 percent of child-only cases include a non-parent caregiver, and the percentage ranges from 17 percent in California to 100 percent in Oklahoma… In FY 2016, 54 percent of children in non-parent caregiver child-only cases were living with their grandparents (HHS, ACF, OFA 2017).”

A one-page summary of the bill is available here.
A section-by-section summary of the bill is available here.
A copy of the bill text is available here.

About the Author:

John Sciamanna is CWLA's Vice President of Public Policy.

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