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16th Anniversary of Welfare Reform

Family sitting at the parkOn the anniversary of groundbreaking welfare reform, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant reaches fewer than one in three poor families, and the amount of assistance has fallen in all states. A new paper, brief, and factsheet examine TANF changes over the last 16 years, and offer specific recommendations to address the challenges.

State Approaches to the TANF Block Grant: Welfare Is Not What You Think It Is
Heather Hahn, Olivia Golden, Alexandra Stanczyk

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant is a broad funding stream that allows states to make greatly divergent policy decisions, with vastly different implications for each state's low-income families. This paper examines how state goals, policies, and expenditure decisions contribute to unique pictures of TANF in California, Florida, Michigan, Texas, and Washington. The paper examines not only cash assistance, but also states' overall approaches to the block grant. Further, the paper studies how state TANF programs responded to new federal requirements (the Deficit Reduction Act) and funding (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act), and to the recession.

Strengthening TANF for States and Needy Families
Heather Hahn, Olivia Golden, Peter Edelman

This brief offers specific recommendations to address four problems with TANF. First, too few needy families receive TANF help, with significant variation across states. Second, TANF did not respond during the recession. Third, TANF has been unresponsive to caseload changes, particularly that half the cases only include children. Fourth, TANF's limitations heighten families' need for a whole package of supports. The recommendations include increasing federal funding for states to better accommodate increases in need; aligning TANF incentives with the goals of work, economic stability, and child well-being; and streamlining access to the full range of supports for low-income working families.

TANF at 16: What Do We Know?
Sheila R. Zedlewski, Thomas Callan, Gregory Acs

This week marks the 16th anniversary of the landmark welfare reform legislation that created the Temporary Assis-tance for Needy Families (TANF) program and terminated the Aid to Dependent Families with Children (AFDC) pro-gram, which had provided an entitlement to cash assistance for over 60 years. This fact sheet summarizes what we have learned about the TANF program over the past 16 years.





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