The House Ways and Means Committee has released for debate and vote a TANF reauthorization. It is anticipated that the vote will take place this Wednesday. The announcement of the latest bill came last Thursday and would set a vote two weeks after the Human Resources Subcommittee released an initial draft.
The bill makes superficial changes such as renaming the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to Jobs and Opportunity with Benefits and Services (JOBS) but also includes several significant changes from draft considered by the Subcommittee and commented on by CWLA last week. Most significantly it adds $600 million in child care matching funds, allows a ten percent transfer in to Child Welfare Services, and drops proposals to redistribute the $16.5 billion TANF block grant between the states. But the bill appears to fund the child care by eliminating the TANF contingency fund that some states (especially New York) rely on. It also remains a partisan effort and as such will likely draw universal opposition from Democrats especially since it does not increase funds for the block grant despite the funding having lost a third of its value since 1996.
The JOBS bill (HR 5861) is different from the Subcommittee version and did respond to some of the criticisms of that draft. It no longer seeks to divide up the $16.5 billion between 75 as a mandatory fund and 25 percent as a match but instead maintains the current allocation based on the 1996. Significantly it increases child care funding by $600 million which would also leverage additional state match. It does ease up on some of the more punitive work requirements that had been added in 2006 with outcomes for states (originally created in 1996) shifted to the number of people who leave assistance and who are working or still working six months and twelve months later. It also eases up on how tightly work is defined including how states use education and vocational education. It restores more realistic work expectations for two-parent families that became very tough after the 2006 TANF reauthorization.
The legislation also keeps some of the new provisions and restrictions on the use of TANF funds. State would be able to transfer up to 50 percent of the TANF block grant into child care and/or child care-child welfare-workforce block grants. States could still transfer a maximum of ten percent into child welfare as was in the draft but this time the ten percent transfer of the $16.5 billion would be a transfer into the more flexible Title IV-B part 1, Child Welfare Services (CWS) instead of the more limited Promoting Safe and stable Families (PSSF).
In addition states could also transfer up to 10 percent into the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). It continues (as was in the previous draft) the elimination of the ability to transfer 10 percent of TANF funds into SSBG. This bill, as was the case in the draft, will prohibit spending TANF funds on child care or child welfare as a result of the changes in transfer authority.
The Subcommittee draft, would have distributed 25 percent of the TANF block grant (approximately $4.5 billion) based on child poverty requiring a non-mandatory state match. In effect it would have taken funds away from approximately half the states that have historically received a lower federal match to other states that have had a higher state match. That provisions would have taken money from states like California (-$419 million), Connecticut ($-39 million), Massachusetts (-$63 million), and New York (-$373 million), and transferred to states such as Florida (+$99 million), Georgia ($75 million) and Texas (+323 million).