Testimony of Ed Lazere, Executive Director, At the Public Roundtable On the District of Columbia’s TANF Program

Chairman Graham and other members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today.  My name isEd Lazere, and I am the executive director of the DC Fiscal Policy Institute.  DCFPI engages in research and public education on the fiscal and economic health of the District of Columbia, with a particular emphasis on policies that affect low- and moderate-income residents.  

An effective TANF program should accomplish several goals.  It should provide a financial safety net to families with children when facing temporary unemployment and to those with more serious barriers to employment.  An effective TANF program also will identify the challenges facing families and direct families to services to address those challenges.  And an effective TANF program provides employment services to parents that are able to work.  

DC’s TANF program ‘ and any state’s TANF program ‘ should be measured against these broad goals of protecting families with children while also helping parents become stronger and more financially self-sufficient.  

The District’s Department of Human Services has undertaken an impressive effort in recent years to re-design its TANF program.  As we have noted on many occasions, the re-designed TANF program includes in-depth analysis of each family’s strength and weaknesses and customized services tailored to each family’s needs.  Early results from the new TANF program are promising.  

I am happy to have a chance to speak more about the strengths and of DC’s new TANF program, and also to highlight areas where we believe further improvement is needed.  In particular, efforts are needed to fully fund employment services so that all families who are ready can engage in work preparation activities.  Beyond that, the DC Fiscal Policy Institute supports the following steps an increase in DC’s basic TANF cash benefit and implementation of time limit exemptions and extensions for families in certain circumstances.  Finally, DCFPI is concerned with the proposed TANF sanctions policy that would terminate benefits entirely for some families that fail to comply with work requirements.

To read the complete testimony, click here.