CHN: Ways And Means Committee Hears Testimony on TANF

Democrats and Advocates Express Concerns
The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources convened a hearing on April 11 to address the upcoming reauthorization of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) block grant. The committee, led by Chairman Wally Herger (R-CA) and Ranking Member Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), heard testimony from a wide variety of interested parties, including congressional colleagues, state representatives, advocates, academic experts, faith-based groups, and welfare recipients.

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy Thompson, joined by Assistant Secretary Wade Horn, laid out the Administration’s proposal, including the increased work requirements and universal work engagement principle. Secretary Thompson praised Chairman Herger’s recently introduced TANF proposal (HR 4090), noting his approval of a provision to increase the amount of transferable funds from the TANF block grant to the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG). Current law allows states to transfer up to 30 percent of TANF funds into CCDBG; Herger’s bill proposes increasing the amount allowable to 50 percent.

Following the Secretary’s testimony, Thompson and Horn responded to questions from the committee about state flexibility by contending that aspects of the Administration’s proposal would increase flexibility. They insisted that 16 hours per week of required work engagement could be broadly defined by the states, and noted that recipients would have three months available in a 24-month period to enroll in programs designed to address barriers to employment. Thompson and Horn also referenced the “super waiver” (see above article for more information) in his remarks on state flexibility. Representative Cardin countered that the increased state costs of the new requirements may in fact limit state flexibility.

Following Thompson and Horn, several members of Congress addressed the subcommittee with their concerns and offered their own proposals. Representative Patsy Mink (D-HI) outlined her reauthorization proposal (HR 3113), which provides increased access to education and training, addresses disabilities and other barriers to employment, and stresses the importance of sufficient quality childcare. Other Democratic Representatives addressed the need for increased educational opportunities, state flexibility, and concerns about state supplantation of TANF funds for non-related programs.

Republican comments centered on the benefits of full check sanctions (eliminating a recipients’ entire benefit amount, rather than a partial amount) for program violations, and the adequacy of funding and state flexibility in the Administration’s and Representative Herger’s reauthorization proposals. The House Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee plans to mark up the Herger proposal sometime this week.

Food and Nutrition
Income Support
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families