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Fewer TANF Dollars Going to Neediest

TANF core activities include job programs. (Flazingo Photos/flickr.com)
TANF core activities include job programs. (Flazingo Photos/flickr.com)
January 16, 2017

HARTFORD, Conn. – A new study shows that Connecticut uses only 30 percent of its Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds for basic assistance, work programs and child care.

A policy brief, prepared by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, shows that on average states spend about half of their combined state and federal TANF funds on core welfare reform areas.

Liz Schott, co-author of the study, says when TANF block grants were adopted 20 years ago they were touted as a way to give states more flexibility to get funds to the neediest families for basic assistance, work-related activities and support services such as child care.

"What this data shows is that's not what has happened,” she points out. “The states are not using half the money to do those things. So the block grant was a little bit of a bait-and-switch."

In 2015, for every 100 poor families with children in Connecticut, only 30 received TANF cash assistance, down from 70 in 2001.

Schott notes that Connecticut now spends far less than the national average on core TANF activities.

"Like basic cash assistance,” she states. “They have a very short time limit. Less than half the national average on work activities, significantly less on child care."

Connecticut ranked 40th among the states for the percentage of TANF funds spent on core activities.

Schott contends the law needs to be revised to define who is needy, and to restrict what TANF dollars can be used for.

"States should be required to spend at least half and more like 60 percent on the core activities,” she states. “So states should have more constraints."

Schott also cautions against extending that same kind of flexibility in the way states spend federal money to other programs.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - CT