Last Wednesday, August 30, HHS announced they were revoking any potential waiver authority regarding TANF work requirements.  In announcing the policy shift ACF representatives said the policy rescinds a 2012 Obama administration information memorandum encouraging states to apply for exemptions from the 2006 work participation standards for welfare cash assistance programs.

The issuance of the guidance by the Obama Administration in the summer of 2012 created some political heat during that presidential election campaign and was one of the few actions offered up by that Administration regarding TANF or a TANF reauthorization.  The waiver was intended to restore some of the 1996 state flexibility in regard to TANF work requirements and work definitions.

According to last week’s announcement only Ohio had applied for a waiver.  Office of Family Assistance Director Clarence Carter, said, “Our agency is committed to helping low-income families transition from welfare to work, we cannot achieve the goal of self-sufficiency if meaningful work participation is divorced from welfare cash assistance.”  Left unsaid, the TANF program has already been divorced from cash assistance.  Recent annual reports indicate that only 30 percent of the inflation-depleted $16.5 billion block grant being used for family cash assistance despite the percentage of poor families falling well below the 1996 coverage (at the beginning).

In 1996, 68 of 100 poor families where receiving cash assistance while only 23 out of 100 poor families were covered in 2015.  As far as work activities and work support only 7 percent of TANF was spent on work activities (designed to train and subsidize work) and only 3 percent was spent on work supports such as transportation and other activities allowing people to maintain their job.

To view the new information memorandum to state welfare offices, click here.