As Congress returned on Monday, June 3, one of their first actions was to extend the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant until the end of this fiscal year. The vote was not without opposition with 357 yes votes to 55 no votes (all Republicans).The extension which now has to go to the Senate for final approval, continues a pattern in the 23 year history of the TANF block grant of being extended mainly in short stretches of a few months to a few years without any real changes or increases in funding. The last time the block grant was re-authorized was in 2006 as part of the 2005 Deficit Reduction Act. The TANF block grant, now at approximately $16.5 billion, has lost more than 35 percent of its value due to inflation. An analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priority earlier this year found that in 36 state the purchasing power of TANF cash assistance is at least 20 percent below what it was in 1996. They also found that for 99 percent of recipients nationally the purchasing power is below what it was in 1996.

For federal fiscal year 2018 the TANF caseload included 534,000 “no-parent” families. These are families where an adult is present but not on the assistance calculation. The adults have been sanctioned, on SSI or are relative caregivers. In FY 2017 of the 999,862 children living in a household with no adult recipient of cash assistance, 25 percent were living with grandparents and another 13 percent were living with other adults usually another relative. That would total just under 400,000 children in a relative care giver situation. A decrease from years past when the overall caseload was higher and relative care was closer to 600,000 children.