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Costly Consequences: The Real Impact of Congress' Elimination of the TANF Supplemental Grants
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September 10, 2012

By David Seith

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In June 2011, Congress eliminated the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Supplemental Grants to 17 states. This report describes what the loss of this $319 million in federal assistance has meant for states that already had very little to spend on some of the poorest children in the nation, and how Congress can act to restore this essential support.

With the loss of the grants, the set of 17 affected states now have difficult choices to make about which services they are willing and able to fund. One set of choices affected states have made cuts TANF’s core function as an income support system of last resort. A second set of choices cuts the job training, placement, and support services that embodied the bipartisan commitment at the heart of welfare reform, to help families to make the transition from cash assistance alone to a combination of earnings, the EITC, and work supports, such as subsidized child care. A third set of choices cuts child protective services that served the first statutory goal of TANF― “supporting needy families so that children can be cared for in their own homes.” Not all states have cut TANF supports and services. Several have managed to maintain existing services and supports by strategic cuts in other areas.

Congress has a critical opportunity in the short-term to prevent further cuts by restoring the Supplemental Grants, and an important responsibility in the longer-term to reauthorize TANF in ways that clarify its purposes, equalize resources, and strengthen accountability.

This paper follows up on a December, 2011, paper examining the consequences of flawed TANF block grant formulas and congressional inattention to TANF.

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