Monday, June 15, 2009

TANF reauthorization next year -- the stakes are high

President Clinton signed "welfare reform" right before the 1996 election; he signed DOMA during the same period. The first reauthorization, during the Bush administration, added the funding of "marriage promotion," which Obama is continuing. The next reauthorization must occur by September 2010.

Now comes an important report from the feminist legal organization Legal Momentum, demonstrating an enormous drop in the number of women and children receiving TANF benefits and a concommitant rise in the number of single-mother families living in extreme poverty. Since 1996, the number of welfare recipients has declined by two-thirds. This is not because "welfare reform" has succeeded in reducing poverty. Rather, there has been a 56% increase in the number of single-mother families with annual incomes less than $3000. When mothers who have left welfare are employed, their average earnings are likely to be less than the poverty level for a family of three.

The safety net has been shredded. There is no longer meaningful federal oversight. If states reduce the amount of money spent on welfare, they can use the surplus in their "block grants" for non-welfare purposes. Caseload reduction brings benefits to the states. These reductions do not have to be tied to any measure of the well-being of poor families.

The 2001 report of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force remains the best analysis of the connection between "welfare reform" and LGBT people. I hope they get involved during the upcoming reauthorization as well.

Legal Momentum will play a major role in shaping the advocacy around reauthorization. They opposed federal funding of "marriage promotion" before and will oppose it this time around as well. They have formed the EndPovertyNow coalition. To join it, send an email with the subject line "join" to tcasey@legalmomentum.org.

2 comments:

Joni said...

I'm a queer woman working on TANF issues, and I'm sad to say that I never made the connection between "marriage promotion" and children of GLBTQ parents. Thank you.

It's shocking to me that at the point of welfare reform, 84% of those eligible got welfare. Now, only 40% of eligible households participate. In many ways, TANF needs a major overhaul.

http://breadforthecity.blogspot.com/search/label/tanf

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