Magazine article National NOW Times

Welfare Reauthorization Opens Door to Real Reform

Magazine article National NOW Times

Welfare Reauthorization Opens Door to Real Reform

Article excerpt

Later this year Congress will consider reauthorization of the Temporary Assistance toNeedy Families (TANF) program, presenting an important opportunity to bring about welfare reform that truly helps poor women and their families.

In the mid- 1 990s, conservatives vilified women receiving public assistance, calling them "welfare queens" and claiming they were "living off the dole." They trumpeted TANF as just the solution to push such women into the workforce. NOW and its allies organized against this punishing policy, which we feared would trap women in low-paying jobs, unable to move out of poverty and support their families.

Many low-income women did find jobs - during what were then economic boom times. But TANF restricted recipients' ability to get a high school diploma, enroll in a vocational training program or finish college. Child care subsidies were inadequate, and transportation support and access to health care were limited. A significant proportion of TANF recipients are women with disabilities or those caring for children with disabilities - serious factors that limit their ability to earn a living, yet TANF assistance is only available for 60 months.

NOW successfully convinced welfare policymakers that violence plays a destructive role in the lives of many poor families and should be addressed. Our efforts resulted in the adoption of the Family Violence Option (FVO), which provides counseling, safety, legal and other assistance to eligibleTANF beneficiaries. Unfortunately, not all states carried through in providing these critical FVO supports.

Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), a strong ally in Congress, has introduced a bill (H.R. 4978) strengthening TANF's anti-violence protections and making the program more accessible to domestic and sexual violence survivors. The bill requires better procedures to effectively screen and refer survivors to needed services. …

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