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Press Release

    Letter to Grassley on Welfare

    03/26/2003

    Senator Charles Grassley
    Chairman
    Senate Finance Committee
    SD-219 Dirksen Senate Office Building
    Washington, DC 20510-6200

    Dear Senator Grassley:

    On February 13, 2003, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 4, the “Personal Responsibility, Work, and Family Promotion Act of 2003,” which reauthorizes funding for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to 2008. On behalf of the 280,000 members of Citizens for a Sound Economy, I urge you and all Senate Finance Committee members to follow the House of Representatives’ lead and pass legislation that would strengthen and reauthorize TANF as soon as possible.

    In 1996, the Republican Congress and then-President Bill Clinton agreed on landmark legislation to overhaul the nation’s welfare system. The “Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996” replaced the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program with TANF.

    The passage of TANF was clearly an important public policy accomplishment. Since passage, Heritage Foundation researchers found:

    • Poverty dropped substantially. According to the Census Bureau, 3.5 million fewer people live in poverty today than in 1995.
    • Fewer children live in poverty. Some 2.9 million fewer children live in poverty today than in 1995, and the poverty rate for black children has fallen to the lowest point in U.S. history. The poverty rate of children living with single mothers is also at the lowest point in U.S. history.
    • There is a reduced interest in welfare. Under TANF, caseloads have been more than cut in half because individuals have found employment.

    The U.S. House of Representatives has taken a bold step to not only reauthorize TANF, but to strengthen the program. H.R. 4 increases the number of productive hours from 30 to 40 that welfare recipients must meet in order to receive benefits. Among these hours, 24 must be dedicated to work and the remaining hours obtained either through work, educational endeavors, or job training. H.R. 4 also requires that 70 percent of state welfare recipients must be employed within a six-year period. Finally, H.R. 4 maintains the current level of funding for welfare block grants to the states at $16.6 billion per year, provides adequate resources for child-care services for welfare recipients, and allows states greater flexibility when they disburse welfare funding.

    A reauthorized and strengthened TANF program will continue to help needy families attain self-sufficiency and economic independence and end the vicious cycle of state dependency. CSE urges all members of the Senate to build on the success of the 1996 reforms and refrain from endorsing measures that would weaken the current TANF provisions. Specifically, CSE urges you to maintain these principles while the Finance Committee marks up the Senate’s version of welfare reauthorization:

    • Preserve reform and protect the provisions of the 1996 bill.
    • Increase minimum work requirements. Work requirements should at least follow the House version, in which a combination of work and job and educational training are attained in order to receive benefits.
    • Allow states flexibility on disbursing childcare resources. Give states maximum flexibility on how to spend federal childcare dollars.

    CSE urges you to reauthorize the TANF program as quickly as possible. Moreover, I hope legislation that your committee marks up will include CSE’s principles for reform. The 1996 reform measure has considerably helped many individuals locked in the punishing cycle of welfare dependency. Millions of former welfare recipients have found meaningful employment positions that have increased their standards of living and quality of life. Reauthorizing and strengthening TANF will continue to assist individuals achieve self-sufficiency and economic independence.

    Sincerely,

    Paul Beckner
    President and CEO
    Citizens for a Sound Economy

    cc: All Senate Finance Committee Members