TANF was one of the Republican Lite programs instituted by Bill Clinton to retreat from New Deal and Great Society social reforms
Center on Budget & Policy Priorities - As we approach the 20th anniversary of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant on August 22, this blog series will outline key facts about the program.
Policymakers created the TANF block grant in large part to give states more flexibility to help cash assistance recipients find and maintain work so they’d no longer need assistance. If states had more flexibility, proponents argued, they could take funds previously used for cash grants and use them to help recipients find jobs and to cover the costs of work supports like child care and transportation assistance. But, the evidence shows, states haven’t lived up to this expectation:
- States devote very few of their TANF resources to work activities. States spent only 7 percent of their state and federal TANF funds on job search, education, training, and other work activities in 2015, and only 17 percent on child care assistance. Some states spent even less. Eighteen states spent less than 5 percent of their TANF funds on work activities; 14 states spent less than 5 percent on child care assistance.
- TANF reaches few nonworking families. Nearly 4 million single mothers were unemployed at some point during 2014, yet only 1.6 million families received TANF in an average month). This means that most single mothers who needed help finding jobs didn’t have access to the employment opportunities and work supports that TANF is supposed to provide. In 1995, in contrast, the number of families receiving cash assistance from Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TANF’s predecessor) in an average month exceeded the number of unemployed single mothers.
- Parents who leave TANF generally don’t fare well in the labor market over the long term. Though welfare reform proponents claim that TANF has a strong track record in moving families to work, we have almost no recent data on this issue — and the data we do have finds that former TANF recipients who get stable employment and raise their earnings are the exception, not the norm. A recent study of almost 5,000 Maryland families found that in the fifth year after leaving TANF, 46 percent didn’t work at all or worked in just one quarter of the year, up from 39 percent with little or no work in the first year after leaving TANF. The share with no job rose substantially between the first and fifth year, from 27 percent to 37 percent of former recipients. Only 8 percent of former recipients earned more than the federal poverty threshold for a family of three in all five years.
Wikipedia - Temporary Assistance for Needy Families is one of the United States of America's federal assistance programs. It began on July 1, 1997, and succeeded the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program, providing cash assistance to indigent American families with dependent children through the United States Department of Health and Human Services. This cash benefit is often referred to simply as "welfare".
TANF was created by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act instituted under President Bill Clinton in 1996. The Act provides temporary financial assistance while aiming to get people off of that assistance, primarily through employment. There is a maximum of 60 months of benefits within one's lifetime, but some states have instituted shorter periods. The reform granted states wide discretion of how to distribute TANF entitlements. States also have the authority to eliminate payments to recipients altogether. Under the new act, TANF recipients are required to find a job within 24 months of receiving aid. In enforcing the 60-month time limit, some states place limits on the adult portion of the assistance only, while still aiding the otherwise eligible children in the household.
Some argued that such programs were ineffective, promoted dependency on the government, and encouraged behaviors detrimental to escaping from poverty. But some people argue that TANF is detrimental to its recipients because using these programs have a stigma attached to them, which makes the people that use them less likely to participate politically to defend this program, and thus the programs have been subsequently weakened. and thus Beginning with President Ronald Reagan’s administration and continuing through the first few years of the Clinton administration, growing dissatisfaction with AFDC, particularly the rise in welfare caseloads, led an increasing number of states to seek waivers from AFDC rules to allow states to more stringently enforce work requirements for welfare recipients. The 27 percent increase in caseloads between 1990 and 1994 accelerated the push by states to implement more radical welfare reform.
States that were granted waivers from AFDC program rules to run mandatory welfare-to-work programs were also required to rigorously evaluate the success of their programs. As a result, many types of mandatory welfare-to-work programs were evaluated in the early 1990s. While reviews of such programs found that almost all programs led to significant increases in employment and reductions in welfare rolls, there was little evidence that income among former welfare recipients had increased. In effect, increases in earnings from jobs were offset by losses in public income, leading many to conclude that these programs had no anti-poverty effects.