Academic journal article Social Justice

Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Reauthorization: Bill Summary, October 3, 2001

Academic journal article Social Justice

Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Reauthorization: Bill Summary, October 3, 2001

Article excerpt


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[Under the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act,] the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) must be reauthorized after five years. On October 10, 2001, Patsy Mink (D-HI) and members of the Progressive Caucus introduced a bill to reauthorize TANF (HR 3113). [By spring 2002, the bill had more than 90 co-sponsors.] The Mink bill is an aggressive effort to combat poverty in America by offering genuine paths out of poverty and addressing individuals' barriers to economic security. A summary of the bill follows.

In General

The Mink bill retains the basic structure of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, including an emphasis on work and a five-year lifetime limit. The bill has been drafted with careful attention to the challenges that have prevented welfare recipients from escaping poverty during the last five years under TANF The bill directs work efforts to permanent, sustainable, high-wage employment opportunities through education, training, and targeting high-wage jobs. The bill also focuses on providing work supports like child care and addressing barriers to economic self-sufficiency such as domestic violence, mental or physical disability, and substance abuse. Finally, the bill restores full access to qualified immigrants.


Purpose of the TANF Reauthorization Bill

The Mink bill has refined the purposes of TANF to focus on poverty reduction. While welfare reform was successful at getting millions of individuals off the welfare rolls, it has failed to significantly reduce poverty in America. As TANF continues, the emphasis must be on programs and policies that will accomplish the sustained reduction of poverty in America. Consequently, the bill replaces the old purposes with a new purpose to end child and family poverty by--

* Supporting caregivers so that their children may be cared for in their own homes;

* Promoting education, training, work supports, and access to jobs that pay a living wage;

* Assuring access to Medicaid, Food Stamps, child care, and other such assistance;

* Assuring access to services to address barriers such as mental illness, physical disability, substance abuse, and domestic and sexual violence; and

* Reducing poverty of families with children.

State Plan

> Addressing Barriers--The Mink bill revises and expands the Family Violence Option, changing it into a requirement that states address domestic and sexual violence, mental illness, and disability and substance abuse issues by certifying that they have established standards and procedures to ensure that prior to imposition of any sanctions or penalty for noncompliance, trained caseworkers (or at the individual's option, qualified professionals) will screen individuals for one of several work/life barriers: domestic or sexual violence, mental illness, substance abuse or disability. If one of these problems is identified, the state must have a system in place for referring the individual for treatment if she so desires. The state must also certify that it has coordinated, contracted with, or hired in qualified professionals in these fields, and require those professionals to provide coordinated services. The provision includes a requirement that all such information will be kept confidential. Finally, states must certify that they will waive any program requirement that unfairly penalizes an individual addressing one of these barriers, or makes an individual unsafe.

> Planning for Jobs That Lead out of Poverty--The bill requires states to help survey the regional economy to identify jobs that will lead an individual out of poverty. …

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