Part of a Series
August 22 marks the 15th anniversary of the signing of the welfare reform bill, making this a good time to reflect on the future of what is now known as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, program. One would expect that during this unprecedented time of high unemployment and hardship that TANF—one of the biggest programs serving people in poverty—would be of interest to Congress. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case.
In the coming months Congress should seriously work toward defining the next era of the program. And what makes the most sense is a shift to a singular mission of ending poverty.
This shift in emphasis is a logical next step for TANF. Before the program was reformed, welfare’s primary aim was income support. Not enough attention was paid to successfully supporting families’ participation in the world of work. Welfare reform encouraged work and produced positive results for many families, but it left some serious loose ends with many mothers entering the ranks of the working poor or being poor because they totally fell of the grid.
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