Testimony of Kate Coventry, Policy Analyst, At the Public Roundtable on Revised Fiscal Impact of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Time Limit Amendment Act of 2013, Subtitle (V)(N) of the FY 2014 Budget Support Act

Chairman Graham and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Kate Coventry, and I am a policy analyst with 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 how policies impact low-and-moderate income families. 

I am here today to testify in support of the time limit exemption for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients enrolled in postsecondary education or training. I urge the Committee and the Department of Human Services to work to resolve any administrative barriers to implementation, and to find the resources needed to provide this exemption without reducing any other TANF services. By providing this exemption, the District joins twelve states who recognize the importance of education and training to TANF parents by offering time limit exemptions and/or extensions to these families. 

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is the welfare-to-work program for needy families with children. While TANF caseloads have dropped by about one-third since the adoption of welfare reform in the 1990s, TANF still provides monthly support to one in three children in the District. Given the numbers of parents and children involved, an effective TANF program is important to the well-being and future of DC’s children and an important component in the city’s efforts to reduce unemployment. 

A critical component in these efforts is the time limit exemption included in the “TANF Time Limit Amendment Act of 2013″ for individuals enrolled in an accredited postsecondary program or Department of Employment Services approved job training program. This exemption was designed to provide TANF parents with the time to finish the job training or education they need to qualify for higher-quality and higher-paying jobs without a reduction in the cash assistance benefits that support themselves and their children. 

The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce reports that postsecondary education or training is increasingly important in obtaining employment.[1] This is particularly true in the District, where it is predicted that 72 percent of all job openings in 2018 will require some postsecondary education, higher than in any state.[2] Without additional education and training, DC’s TANF parents will be facing intense competition for the smaller number of jobs that require only a high school degree or do not require a degree. 

Furthermore, the Center finds that education is increasingly key in retaining employment, particularly during economic downturns. The job market emerging from the Great Recession is different than the job market preceding it — many low-skill jobs that were lost will not be replaced, having been automated or exported overseas. The jobs that weathered the recession and the new jobs created during the recovery both typically require postsecondary education or training. 

Finally the Center observes that postsecondary education and training are the gateways to further training and job advancement. Workers with less education are less likely to receive employer-provided training and are less likely to gain access to technology than more educated workers. [3] This is important as workers who receive employer-provided training earn more than their more-educated coworkers who do not receive this training. And workers who use technology on the job earn more than their coworkers who do not. Thus, an investment in training and education for TANF recipients can lead future employers to make further investments in them once they are employees. 

The Department of Human Services has reported a number of barriers to implementing a time limit exemption for parents in postsecondary education and training, including difficulties with the Department’s outdated database. The ultimate outcome must be to find a way to implement an exemption, which by law should be in effect by now. It would not be appropriate to deny an exemption to families in education and training simply because the District’s antiquated computer system cannot handle it. We believe the policy and administrative barriers can be addressed in ways that allow the District to meet all necessary federal requirements and to provide desired services to TANF families. The DC Fiscal Policy Institute is ready to lend its time and expertise to helping work through these issues. 

Thank you for the opportunity to testify, and I’m happy to answer any questions.


[1] Help Wanted: Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements Through 2018 by Anthony P. Carnevale, Nicole Smith, and Jeff Strohl. Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. June 2010. http://cew.georgetown.edu/jobs2018/

[2] Ibid, page 121.

[3] Career and Technical Education: Five Ways that Pay by Anthony P. Carnevale, Tamara Jayasundera, and Andrew R. Hanson. Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. September 2012. http://cew.georgetown.edu/ctefiveways/