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In 1996, the federal government "ended welfare as we know it," replacing Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program.
Welfare Reform at Age 15: A Vanishing Safety Net for Women and Children, a new report by Legal Momentum, demonstrates that TANF has shredded the safety net.
Over the last fifteen years, TANF has utterly failed to offer its recipients – mostly children and single mothers – a path out of poverty. With benefits far below the poverty level, sanctions imposed erroneously or for trivial reasons, and a focus on "Work First" rather than an emphasis on education and training for higher-paying jobs, TANF is in desperate need of real reform.
Congress must enact legislation by September 30, 2011 to reauthorize or otherwise extend TANF. Welfare Reform at Age 15 shows that change is essential if TANF is to become an effective safety net. Benefits must be raised. The program’s intended beneficiaries need an enforceable right to aid. New access protections are required to assure that aid is provided promptly and that the program is sensitive to the needs of domestic violence victims. Education and training for living wage employment should be encouraged, not discouraged. Funding for child care and subsidized employment must be increased. Full family sanctions and eligibility exclusions unrelated to need should be banned.