Welfare Reform Moves Forward

After the public hearing on SB 24, which would reform the temporary assistance for needy families (TANF) program, and similar House sponsored legislation, the House Committee on Children and Families gave approval to multiple welfare assistance bills and sent them on to the Select Committee on Social Services. On Thursday, before adjourning for the week, members of the Select Committee voted SB 24 and related House bills “DO PASS,” but only after making a number of changes.

From the perspective of the MCC the revisions were a mix of good and bad ideas. Of most concern, the Select Committee reduced the lifetime limit for receiving benefits from the TANF program to 30 months. As passed by the Senate, SB 24 had a lifetime limit of 48 months. Advocates who work with the poor say more time is needed to help TANF recipients find work and secure better income. The MCC will be working to push the lifetime limit back up to at least the 48 month limit. The Select Committee, however, also added some positive provisions to SB 24, including the following:

  • Removing the marriage penalty. If a TANF recipient is married, the income of the new spouse would be disregarded in calculating eligibility for six months;
  • Allocating two percent of TANF funds for marriage promotion and father responsibility programs; and,
  • Allocating two percent of TANF funds to the Alternatives to Abortion (ATA) program.
These additions should help TANF meet two of its major policy goals, which are to
“[e]ncourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families,” and to “[p]revent and reduce the number of non-marital births, with special emphasis on teenage pregnancies … ”

Senate Bill 24 now moves to the House Floor for consideration. The legislation will then move back to the Senate and eventually a conference committee of House and Senate members may be needed to reconcile the different approaches taken on welfare reform.

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