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The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

TANF Reauthorization Would Help Low-Income People Gain Long-Term Employment

March 9, 2010 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Women's groups, including 9to5, the American Association of University Women, and Legal Momentum, are calling on Congress to reauthorize and reform the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to provide low-income women and families struggling to meet basic needs with adequate assistance and educational opportunities that lead to long-term employment. 

TANF replaced the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program in 1996.  Under TANF, states are granted money to develop financial assistance, job training, and education programs to enable people attain the skills necessary to secure sustainable employment.

Increasingly, the path to jobs that pay a living wage requires some higher education. While TANF gives struggling families some help, many impoverished Americans are prevented from taking advantage of educational opportunities by roadblocks within the system, such as requirements that single-parent families work at least 30 hours per week, a 12-month limit on participation in vocational education, and a 30 percent cap on the number of families that can participate in vocational training at one time. 

One study found that current TANF policies reduce the likelihood that women between the ages of 24 and 48 will attend college by 20-25 percent.

To strengthen TANF as a safety net and provide better employment and educational opportunities, the groups say that Congress should:

  • require that TANF benefits be sufficient to raise family incomes to the poverty line (currently $22,756 for a family of four);
  • suspend work requirements and time limits to help families ride out the recession;
  • invest in education and training programs so low-income fathers and mothers can compete for high-wage jobs; and
  • apply child care toward TANF's 30-hour work requirement.

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