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The Republican Leadership Says:Let's Make More Americans Really Poor!

The Republican Leadership says: "Let's make more Americans deeply poor!":

Conference Agreement Imposes Expensive New TANF Requirements On States And Will Result In Loss Of Child Care For Working Poor, Rev 12/19/05 : The conference agreement on the spending reconciliation bill (S. 1932) includes a major restructuring of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) work participation requirements, imposing expensive and unfunded new requirements on states and severely limiting the flexibility they were afforded under the 1996 law that created the TANF block grant. While some have suggested that the TANF changes represent only minor changes from current law, that is incorrect. In fact, a new Congressional Budget Office analysis shows that the work requirements would be even more expensive for states to meet than those included in the controversial House-passed bill.

States would have to meet much higher work participation rates in 2007 — starting just ten months from now — or else face fiscal penalties. The participation rate measures the percentage of TANF recipients enrolled in federally-prescribed work activities for a federally-prescribed number of hours. The new requirements would be effective in FY 2007.... The number of children in deep poverty is likely to rise, as CBO expects states to try to cope with the federal mandates by increasing the number of families that are sanctioned off the program and by imposing new barriers to poor families seeking assistance.... The number of children living below one-half of the poverty line increased by nearly 1.5 million between 2000 and 2004.... There already is significant research showing that families sanctioned off TANF programs are disproportionately those with the most severe barriers to employment....

Some states already have instituted policies and procedures that have resulted in a sharp decline in the proportion of eligible poor families that actually receive aid through TANF. In the mid-1990s, about 80 percent of families with children who were poor enough to qualify for cash assistance through the former AFDC program received aid through that program. Data from HHS shows that in 2002, fewer than half of families poor enough to meet the TANF eligibility requirements in their states received income assistance through TANF.[3] This marked drop in participation is one of the reasons that the number and percentage of children and families who live in deep poverty has risen significantly in recent years. The expensive and unfunded work requirements in the conference agreement provide states with a strong incentive to restrict access to assistance which could exacerbate this already disturbing trend....

The conference agreement sharply restricts states’ flexibility to set policies in state-funded programs, undoing a basic tenet of the 1996 welfare law.... The conference report imposes unrealistic work requirements on two-parent families. Under current law, states are required to meet a 90 percent work participation rate for two-parent families. Researchers and state officials have long recognized that such a participation requirement is not attainable because of the many legitimate reasons that parents may be unable to fulfill the full participation requirements each month. If a parent is ill, is needed to care for an ill child, or is simply waiting for a work program to begin, the parent will fail to meet the hourly requirements and the state will not be able to “count” them toward the work participation rates. Recognizing that the federal law was wholly unworkable, states placed many two-parent families into separate state programs to ensure that if they failed to meet the 90 percent standard, the state did not face fiscal penalties.... Under the conference agreement, the 90 percent work participation rate... requirement means that any state that provides assistance to two-parent families will almost certainly fail to meet the work participation requirements and will face fiscal penalties. This could serve as a strong disincentive to states to provide aid to two-parent families and, ironically, take many states back to the old AFDC days when only single-parent families could get assistance...

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