CHN: Chairman Grassley Floats A TANF Reauthorization Outline
Tell Your Senators to Reject Burdensome New Work Requirements and to Add Significant Funds for Child Care
Last week Senate Finance Committee majority staff began circulating an incomplete TANF reauthorization proposal, seeking agreement from committee members. Called PRIDE (the Personal Responsibility and Individual Development for Everyone), its main differences from current law are increased work requirements, funding for marriage promotion and fatherhood supports and improvements in distributing child support to families. The proposal does not contain a dollar amount for increased child care funding, although some increase is expected.
Although the Senate Finance Committee markup of TANF reauthorization legislation is scheduled for July 23, that date may slip. During bipartisan meetings this week to discuss this proposal, Democratic committee members voiced concerns over the increased hours of work and the lack of child care funding. Senator Grassley has said that he believes his bill takes a bipartisan approach and is one that the President will be willing to sign into law. Senator Grassley will continue to press for agreement. In fact, some elements of the proposal appear to have already changed in response to initial bipartisan criticisms since the outline was circulated, although there is no new paper available. Now is a critical time to be in touch with Senators to press for improvements that will help families with children find and keep above-poverty employment, and to protect them when work is not possible.
While all the details are not yet known about PRIDE, its added work hours and high participation requirements ignore the real problems of rising unemployment and state budget crises. The proposal largely misses the opportunity to promote successful approaches that support work and help lift families out of poverty. Although no child care number funding amount is included, there are indications that Republicans will go down from the $5.5 billion proposed by Senate Finance last year. If so, the figure will fall far short of the need that has grown since last year because of state child care cutbacks. There are positive elements in the outline: to the extent that the draft resembles Senator Snowe’s bill to distribute more child support collections to families, it will offer real help. A proposal to count care for dependents with disabilities as satisfying the work requirement is a step in the right direction, although it needs important changes to be effective.
The bill is somewhat more helpful to children and families than the House version, but overall the Senate Finance Committee draft appears to be worse than current law in serving and protecting low-income families with children because it increases work requirements without adequate child care funding and without offering families help in preparing for work.
For more information about child care needs, see the new joint CLASP/Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report by Sharon Parrott and Jennifer Mezey.