The MCC submitted a floor letter to House members prior to debate on SB 24. The letter pointed out the many positive aspects of the legislation, but urged members to allow at least 48 months of TANF benefits in a person’s lifetime. This was the lifetime limit set by the Senate. The House approved many of the MCC recommendations but reduced the lifetime benefit limit to 30 months.
Next week, the Missouri General Assembly will be on spring break but when they return on Monday, March 30 legislators will consider final revisions to SB 24. You can send a pre-composed message to your state legislators by using this MCC Action Alert. We also encourage you to visit with your legislators over spring break.
The House’s 30-month TANF limit is too short. It fails to recognize the barriers to employment faced by recipients, including lack of transportation and education, few job skills, drug and alcohol addictions, domestic violence issues, and a past of intergenerational poverty. These barriers can be overcome, but it takes time. Recipients need the opportunity to fully participate in the TANF work activities, such as education, job training, and community services, as well as actual employment. The 48-month limit set the by Senate is reasonable; the House’s 30-month limit is not.
By adopting the Senate’s 48-month limit the General Assembly will be in a position to pass welfare reform that truly improves TANF. Here are some of the positive provisions of SB 24 the MCC is supporting:
- Recipients have face-to-face meetings with caseworkers to plan a roadmap out of poverty (currently, most recipients never see a caseworker);
- The marriage penalty in TANF is removed. If a recipient marries, the income of the spouse will be disregarded in calculating benefits for six months (this will promote marriage and two-parent families);
- TANF dollars are allocated to address two purposes of the federal law: 1) prevent and reduce out-of-wedlock birth; and 2) encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families. This will be done by allocating:
- $4.3 million for healthy marriage and responsible fatherhood programs; and,
- $4.3 million for alternative to abortion services.