This week the Missouri General Assembly approved SB 24, the governor’s veto notwithstanding. The bill, sponsored by Senator David Sater (R-Cassville), revamps the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which provides cash assistance to low-income parents with dependent children.
The new law reduces the period a family can receive TANF cash benefits from 60 to 45 months. The MCC opposed this move and suggested during negotiations that the 45-month limit apply only to new applicants so that current recipients would not see an abrupt end to their benefits. However, as approved there is no “grandfather” provision.
The MCC was successful in adding provisions to SB 24 ensuring caseworkers have several face-to-face meetings with recipients to explain services available under TANF and give notice of the 45-month limit on the assistance. Additional funds are made available to provide job training and vocational education for recipients.
Also at the urging of the MCC, the “marriage penalty” in TANF is eliminated. As a result, if a TANF recipient marries, the income and assets of the new spouse are disregarded for six months. Social researchers find that people have a better chance of moving out of poverty if they form two-parent families where there are two incomes to support the household. At present most TANF recipients are single mothers and only about 12% are married.
The MCC also sought and obtained over $4 million to fund programs that promote the formation of two-parent families and responsible fatherhood. These programs exist now but more funding will allow for their expansion. Through these programs, fathers are encouraged to reconnect with their children and assist the family they have created.
The new SB 24 law also authorizes $4 million for programs to help low-income women facing crisis pregnancies. Often not understood is that pregnancy resource centers not only help women avoid abortions but also assist these women in making a roadmap to move out of poverty. Help by these agencies can often extend for a year or more after the pregnancy.
Posted: May 8, 2015