Today is the 20th anniversary of the passage of the 1996 federal welfare law that created the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program. On this anniversary, DC TANF parents are calling on city leaders to reform a program that has failed to meet their needs. They talk about the barriers they face in getting employment that can sustain their families and how they are working to overcome these barriers through education and training. They also talk about how hard it is to support a family on just $154 per month for a family of three, the reduced TANF benefit provided to families who have received benefits for more than 60 months. And they talk about how cutting families off of TANF before they are ready, as DC is planning to do in October 2017, will only make their problems worse.
As DC leaders prepare to make critical choices about how to modify the city’s rigid TANF time limit, they should look to the lived experiences of TANF parents. The DC time limit cuts all families off when they reach the time limit, even if they are doing all they can to find a job or are facing big barriers to employment like domestic violence or health problems. DC should modify the time limit to recognize that some families need more time and assistance to obtain employment. And the District should create a policy that avoids pushing more families into deeper poverty. This will create a brighter future for TANF families and for the city as a whole.
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