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Representative Darin LaHood

Representing the 18th District of Illinois

LaHood Introduces Bill to Strengthen TANF

May 17, 2018
Press Release
Legislation Would Prioritize TANF Funds to Promote Work

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, Congressman Darin LaHood introduced H.R 5838, the Improving Access to Work Act, which would strengthen programs under Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) that support needy families, while increasing avenues to promote and facilitate work. This program will continue to help families in need pay for food, shelter, utilities, and expenses but also increase support for work activities, such as on-the-job training, vocational educational training and career technical training, to name a few.

“The foundational goal of TANF is to provide a temporary safety net for those in need of government assistance,” said Rep. LaHood. “However, given that we currently have over six million jobs unfilled across the United States, my bill puts a priority on workforce development and technical education to get people the skills they need to be qualified for employment opportunities. There have been far too many instances of TANF funds not being spent on their intended purposes of getting people the workplace skills that they need and deserve, which is why this reform will require many states to more than double the amount of TANF funds they spend on activities that encourage able-bodied workers to enter the workforce. None of this will impact the program’s ability to assist families in need, and is a common-sense step to capitalize on the recent record-setting job growth and decline in employment.”

H.R. 5838 Background:
H.R. 5838 would prohibit states from supplanting federal TANF dollars to fill state budget holes or to fund activities unrelated to the stated goals of the program, such as mending roads and bridges or providing services to sex offenders. It would also require that states spend 25% of their federal block grant, as well as 25% of their qualified state expenditures on activities that support workforce, including job and career technical, development programs. These provisions will help hold states accountable for their spending and ensure that the dollars are going towards the neediest families to provide them with the resources and necessary tools to get back into the workforce.

TANF, created in 1996, provides a block grant to each state to assist families and children with temporary financial assistance. Since 1997, state spending on basic assistance has fallen by 64% after adjusting for inflation. In 2016, nearly 40% of TANF recipients abused the system by recording zero hours of the required work or training activities. That same year, states used only 9% of their TANF funds for work activities and only 3% on work support or supportive services.

TANF’s authorization expires on September 30 and a larger re-authorization package is expected to be considered by the House Ways and Means Committee in the coming weeks. This package is expected to contain an array of reforms which will address waste, fraud, and abuse in the TANF program.