Ending Homelessness Today — TANF
Why States Are Using Welfare to Pay for Housing
May 30, 2013
For the past three years, states used one-time stimulus funds to supercharge a promising anti-homelessness initiative. Now that the money is gone, at least nine states are leveraging welfare cash assistance to keep the program alive, and the federal government hopes more states will follow.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, also known as the economic stimulus, set aside $1.5 billion for the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Rehousing Program (HPRP) over three years. But in 2013, states are faced with a question of how to cover the loss of that one-time investment. “We’re all having an ARRA hangover,” said Karla Aguirre, director of workforce development at Utah’s Department of Workforce Services.
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No HPRP? What now?
April 01, 2013
Some innovative communities have already shown how much we can accomplish when homeless service providers partner up with state agencies administering the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. This Thursday, the National Alliance to End Homelessness hosted a webinar, Partnering with TANF Agencies to End Family Homelessness: Idaho, that examined how one local provider did just that.
The webinar which was recorded on March 28 features representatives from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and the Charitable Assistance for The Community’s Homeless (CATCH, Inc.) who share how the public-private partnership evolved. Check out the embedded video of the webinar to see how.
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More than 1,000 Homeless Families Re-Housed with TANF Support
January 15, 2013
Over the course of the last several years, more than 1,000 formerly homeless families have returned to permanent housing in Salt Lake City thanks to a rapid rehousing program supported by Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) resources.
A new profile by the Alliance examines the partnership between the homeless service provider, The Road Home, and the Utah Department of Workforce Services, the state agency that administers TANF and Workforce Investment Act (WIA) programs, that helped all these families escape homelessness. This partnership is a unique one. It brings together both the expertise and the resources of The Road Home and Workforce Services in order to help homeless families. More communities would benefit from adopting this approach.
Here’s how it works.
Read More »
New Opportunities to Improve Families’ Employment Outcomes
August 02, 2012
States have an important new opportunity to improve the employment outcomes of low-income families. In July, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released an Information Memorandum indicating the Administration’s interest in granting waivers to states for the administration of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program. States may now seek waivers from the administration that allow them to experiment with new strategies to help low-income parents on TANF connect with employment.
Read More »
ACF Welfare Research Conference
June 04, 2012
Last week, the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services hosted the 15th Annual Welfare Research and Evaluation Conference in Washington, DC. This conference provides welfare and poverty researchers, state and local administrators, practitioners, and Federal officials to meet and discuss research, programs, and policies that impact welfare and related programs.
This year, the conference featured tracks on TANF, education and the labor market, child and youth well-being, fatherhood, evaluation of social programs, and alleviating poverty and strengthening the safety net. While a number of the sessions at the conference had implications for homeless families, individuals, and youth, there was a session specifically dedicated to the role that TANF and other human services programs play in ending family homelessness.
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How to Make TANF Work Better for Homeless Families
September 07, 2011
Today, we pause to revisit the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program. Sharon McDonald, Director for Families and Youth at the Alliance, shares her thoughts about welfare.
Last month marked the 15th anniversary of welfare reform. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) is often heralded as a success. With the flexibility of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) block grant, many states provided work supports that helped thousands of families transition off of financial assistance and enter the workforce.
The recent recession, however, highlighted some of the weaknesses of the program. The program did not adequately respond to the increased needs of families suddenly without work and whose unemployment insurance ran out, leaving them teetering on the edge and on their own. From its inception, the program has allowed too many families to fall through the cracks and into deeper poverty. Primary among them are families who experience homelessness.
Less than 20 percent of homeless families report receiving financial assistance from TANF agencies. Studies demonstrate that families who lose TANF assistance often include family members with a disability and other serious barriers to economic self-sufficiency. While some families may lose TANF financial assistance, other eligible families may never apply. With the hope of finding a new job quickly, parents experiencing a short-term economic crisis turn instead to extended families and friends. Many double up. When doubling up results in conflict, they turn to homeless programs.
TANF programs ... Read More »
Urban Institute: The Role of TANF During the Recession
August 18, 2011
This month, our friends at the Urban Institute released a brief on the role of TANF during the recession.
The news is not so good.
According to researchers Sheila Zedlewski, Pamela Loprest, and Erika Huber, TANF did not play a significant role in keeping families economically stable during the recession. In fact, there were many states in which the number of people enrolled in the TANF program declined (this study specifically looks at years 2007 to 2010) while unemployment rose dramatically. Of particular note is the state of Arizona, where TANF rolls declined by 48 percent while unemployment in Arizona rose by 134 percent.
The finding is curious. TANF is meant to assist poor families with cash assistance and promote self-sufficiency and work. Why then, during a time of economic turmoil and high unemployment, would poor families not take advantage of TANF benefits?
Reduced TANF use has left a number of families in dire financial situations, what the writers of the brief call “disconnected.” “Disconnected” families have no earnings of cash government assistance of any kind. The writers found that in 1996, one in eight low-income single mothers was disconnected; that jumped to one in five disconnected single mothers from 2004 to 2008.
And this is the kind of economic vulnerability that leads to homelessness.
Mainstream welfare programs, like TANF, are often a bridge for many poor people and families between homelessness and housing. Most poor people – and people who become homeless are typically poor people – have scant resou... Read More »
Spokesman Review (WA): “State Assistance Terminated for 5,000 Families”
February 02, 2011
This morning, a little news clip from the Spokeman Review (WA) caught my eye. The title read: “State assistance terminated for 5,000 families.”
For months now, the Alliance and like-minded interest groups had warned against the impact of the recession on state budgets. (In fact, Nan discussed it in the Washington Post after the release of The State of Homelessness in America.)
States, already feeling pressure on their financial resources, strained to meet the needs of the increasing number of people and families seeking public assistance as they experienced job loss, unemployment, and other economic distress as a result of the recession.
And now, at least in Washington state, it seems that the pressure has finally come to a hilt. The state has decided to reduce their TANF program by 15 percent – cutting nearly 5,000 families off welfare.
Clearly this is exactly the wrong time to deny struggling families the resources they need to avoid economic turmoil - like homelessness. While the recession may be over in theory, communities across the country can testify to the increased – and sometimes still increasing – number of people seeking charitable as they continue to struggle.
And frankly, we all saw it coming. The Alliance examined state budgets in the research newsletter last fall, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities published a number of briefs about TANF and the Emergency Contingency Fund, and on this very blog, we asked you to support the extension of TANF ECF, a small, e... Read More »
Call your senator today!
December 15, 2010
Yesterday, the Senate Appropriations Committee released a draft proposal for fiscal year (FY) 2011 appropriations, which includes funding for many homeless assistance programs.
The Senate proposal includes the following:
$2.2 billion for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants ($145 million more than the House propsed and $335 million more than last year);
$125.7 million for Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) programs ($10 million more than the House proposal and last year’s funding level);
$85 million for 10,000 vouchers under the proposed new Housing and Services for Homeless Persons Demonstration;
$75 million for 10,000 new HUD-VA Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers; and
$159.4 million for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) programs targeted toward people experiencing homelessness ($17 million more than the House proposal and last year’s funding levels).
In short: this is great news for the homeless assistance programs we want to support!
The Senate is expected to vote on this package this week - possibly as soon as tomorrow, so we need your help!
What You Can Do:
Call your senators TODAY. In case you can’t find it online, you can find congressional office phone numbers by calling the switchboard at 202-224-3121.
Ask to speak to the person who works on housing and tell the housing staff person to urge his/her boss to support the funding levels for the homelessness assistance programs listed above.
Email any responses to Kate Seif (or call: 202-942-8281).
You know the story: Congress is trying to figure out how to al... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: Check the Facts
October 01, 2010
I am going to start off with the good news first because I know the East coast has had a rough week! We at the Alliance got a little recognition today for our work helping the The Lincoln Homeless Coalition revamp the way they serve homeless families. Which, faithful reader, you already know all about from this blog. So kudos to our CAP team! (Want the CAP team in your community? Check out the website.)
Working at the Alliance may make me biased but I was convinced even more this week about the importance of homelessness research. In order to effectively solve a problem, we must first fully understand it. And the research can be hard to swallow - like this report from Toronto - which indicates that homeless youth, particularly lesbian and bisexual women and young people of color, are overwhelmingly victims of crime. Why on earth would anyone victimize a homeless kid?
But with every cloud comes a silver lining. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) has urged members of the Senate to designate these kind of violent attacks against people experiencing homelessness as hate crimes. This act, the "Hate Crimes Against the Homeless Statistics Act," would lead to stiffer penalties for perpetrators and mandate the collection of data on this problem - which hopefully will lead to better solutions. All this because of reports that violent attacks of this nature have been on the rise here in the United Stat... Read More »
TANF ECF expires today
September 30, 2010
So, here’s the update.
Today, the Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF) expires.
You’re read all about it on our blog. You know what the program does. You know that it’s an effective, affordable initiative that not only gets results but helps thousands of vulnerable Americans by providing financial assistance and creating jobs (and if you don’t, check out this post).
So it’s a low down dirty shame that the U.S. Senate has decided to let this program fold. Worse still that as a result of the expiration, 240,000 people could lose their jobs tomorrow, even today. Articles in both Mother Jones and Campus Progress explain the consequences of the end of this program, including the effect it’ll have on people in poverty, vulnerable families, and 99ers.
It’s worth noting here that there are some senators who stepped up to the plate. Senator John Kerry (D- MA) tried to circulate a sign-on letter urging his colleagues to support an extension of the program. Senator Dick Durbin (D – IL) also noted that the program had been critical in his state of Illinois.
And we can’t underestimate the gratitude that we owe you – for calling on your senators to ask them to support this important program.
But you win some, you lose some. And at the end of the day, this social safety net program will expire leaving thousands of Americans with even... Read More »
LAST CHANCE for TANF ECF
September 22, 2010
Seriously, this is your LAST CHANCE.
We’ve been beating the issue – we know – but TANF Emergency Contingency Fund (TANF ECF) will expire in 8 days. And there’s just no time to dawdle!
Urge Congress to save TANF ECF by calling your senator now.
Call your senators and ask to speak to the person who works on welfare issues. Don’t know the number? Call the congressional switchboard to find out: 202-224-3121.
When the staffer who works on welfare issues picks up, ask him or her to urge their boss (read: the senator) to call Senate leaders and tell them that they support extending TANF ECF.
If you can, report back! We want to hear what happened – what they said, what they promised, if they had any objections. Learning about your efforts can help us make a more concerted try with ours. Call (202-942-2856), email, or drop us a note here or on Facebook.
Remember: The ECF was created as part of the Recovery Act, intended to help states support the increasing number of people receiving TANF due to the recession. Since it passed, the program has:
provided cash assistance to low-income families;
provided short-term rent assistance to families experiencing a housing crisis; and
created 250,000 subsidized employment opportunities nationally, many of which will end on September 30 if Congress does not act to extend the funding.
For more information, check out a great piece from the Center on Budget and Policy ... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: Poverty, housing, and photos
September 17, 2010
Welcome to the Friday news roundup!
So headlining the news this week (or at least yesterday) are the poverty numbers. No surprises: poverty, uninsured, up in 2009.
The nation's official poverty rate in 2009 was 14.3 percent, up from 13.2 percent in 2008. The number of people without health insurance coverage rose from 46.3 million in 2008 to 50.7 million in 2009, or an increase from 15.4 percent to 16.7 percent of the total population. You can check out the full report on the census website.
What’s that mean? Well, from our perspective, it means that there are more people at risk of experiencing homelessness. If you remember our brief on ”sustainable cost burden”, you know that more than half of poor families spend more than half their monthly income for housing (this is often termed “severe housing cost burden.”) You might also remember that severe housing cost burden is up among individuals and families doubled up.
With need so high, this is exactly the wrong time to be rising the elimination of TANF ECF. This job-creating service to the most vulnerable families is in danger of expiring at the end of the month. We’ve written about it before and there are daily stories cropping up the program’s importance. It seems that the program may be seeing rays of hope - but that doesn’t mean you should rest on your laurels. If you haven’t already (and you better have!) call your senator today.
An interesting report shows that housin... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: the TANF month
September 10, 2010
If April is the cruelest month, then September - it seems - is the TANF month
(Okay, bad joke.)
Nonetheless, it's been all TANF, all the time.
So here's the story: TANF is a program that helps low-income families. It provides block grants to states and the funds are used to curb child child expenses and promote work preparation and opportunities. In the face of the recession, more and more families were in need of such assistance and the federal government created the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund - an extra pot of money that could help states with up to 80 percent of increased TANF assistance requests. States and think tanks alike have reported that the emergency fund has been a lifeline for both states and the families in those states requiring aid.
But here's where the bad news comes in. The emergency fund is set to expire on September30 of this year if it isn't renewed by the Senate (the House has already voted for an extension).
This seemingly innocuous little welfare program has gotten a decent amount of ink in the last few weeks. It hasn't been the firestorm set off by Quran-burning or midterm elections, but in national and local news sources alike, stories popped up like plastic whac-a-moles.
In Connecticut, the New Haven Register ran a story about the federal program's implications in the state. The article cited an excellent report by the Center for Budget and... Read More »
Call your senator - save TANF ECF!
September 08, 2010
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: we can – and must - save the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF).
And we’re not the only ones that think so. In the last few days, you may have noticed that the innocuous welfare program has received an unusual amount of ink. Stories praising the job-creating program have run in the Chicago Tribune and Huffington Post - among countless other publications.
We hate to say we told you so but we did call it. This stimulus program is making a difference where it’s needed most: offering cash assistance to low-income families, providing housing aid, and subsidizing jobs. In fact, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that the program has created 250,000 subsidized jobs for low-income parents and youth across the country.
But the program is about to come to a grinding halt. TANF ECF will expire on September 30 if Congress doesn’t act now.
We need you to tell them how.
Senator John Kerry (D-MA) is circulating a sign-on letter for his colleagues in the Senate to join. He wants them to sign the letter to urge Senate leaders to extend the ECF right away and provide a one-year, $2.5 billion extension of ECF to allow states to access additional funds and continue subsidizing jobs for low-income families and youth.
Want to know what you can do?
Call your senators TODAY (If you don’t k... Read More »
Examining the Federal Plan: Objective 6 – Mainstream Programs
August 12, 2010
Today I have another installment of our series “Examining the Federal Plan”. In this series, we look at the ten objectives of the new federal plan to end homelessness Opening Doors.
We’re looking at Objective 6: Improve access to mainstream programs and services to reduce people’s financial vulnerability to homelessness.
To learn more about this objective, I turned to Sharon McDonald, Senior Policy Analyst at the Alliance (who will be writing about rapid re-housing as a way to relieve growing shelter populations tomorrow – stay tuned!) .
The first thing I wanted to know was what was meant by “mainstream programs”.
Mainstream programs are those not specifically designed to aid the homeless population or to tackle homelessness issues, but the bigger programs that can help people before they become homeless (and after, if need be), such as those that deal with jobs or income. We’re talking about things like Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Unemployment Insurance (UI), and TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), which is currently in real danger (we did a whole WEEK of posts about saving TANF.)
These programs are meant to reach large portions of the population with lower incomes. These programs are the first lines of defense for preventing people from becoming homeless by providing cash assistance, job placement aid, and other critical services.
The federal plan aims to improve access to these programs. If these mainstream programs could serve more people, we could stop homelessness before it start... Read More »
Don't forget: TANF ECF
August 05, 2010
I know we’ve been harping on this on the blog all week, but we don’t want you to forget about the Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF).
As a refresher, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 created the TANF ECF. The fund can be used to reimburse states for up to 80 percent of increased spending for providing:
non-recurrent, short-term payments (e.g. four months of rental assistance for homeless families, security deposit and first month’s rent, utility assistance);
basic assistance (cash grants to low-income families); and
TANF ECF has made a difference for states – creating jobs and offering the assistance states may need help providing in this time of tight state budgets. Articles and blogs and policy analysis have noted the significance of this overlooked – and quickly expiring – recovery program.
We want to make sure that you fully understand the program – and then take the next step to call your senate office to tell them what you think. The Alliance has produced a number of articles and policy analyses about TANF ECF – and the importance of keeping the valuable, effective program from expiring. And there’s also information about family homelessness – TANF ECF is sometimes discussed in relationship to preventing and ending family homelessness.
If you have questions or comments about the materials there, feel free to give us a shout on Twitter, Facebook, or drop us an old fashioned email.
Thanks guys... Read More »
Ending Family Homelessness: Learning from Communities
August 04, 2010
Today’s blog about family homelessness comes from our colleague Sharon McDonald, Senior Policy Analyst at the Alliance.
Across the country, families are downsizing their housing, doubling up with extended family or friends, moving into motels, and seeking help from homelessness prevention and shelter programs. The Recovery Act provided new funds including the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) and the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF) to help communities grapple with the increased needs of families impacted by the recession.
With so many families facing homelessness, it is critical to maximize all available resources to help families. We must connect with Members of Congress to educate them about the impact of homelessness on families and communities, and - most importantly - the role social programs are playing in meeting the needs of vulnerable individuals and families.
This includes funding for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Programs, Housing Choice Voucher Program, and the National Housing Trust Fund. It also includes advocating for an extension to the TANF ECF which is providing rental assistance to help families stay housed and subsidized employment that helps families escape poverty (see yesterday’s excellent post about action needed on the TANF ECF).
Maximizing resources also means making sure that local programs to help low-income and homeless families and children are as efficient and as effective as possible. This means evaluating whether HPRP and other resources are reaching the families they are designed to serve. Are homelessness prev... Read More »
TANF ECF Needs You NOW!
August 02, 2010
Today, Mindy Mitchell writes about the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund, which is set to expire on September 30, 2010.
It’s been called the “best kept secret” of the federal stimulus plan, and unless the Senate acts soon, it will be over in just a couple months, which would be devastating for families who are homeless or are just barely avoiding homelessness. It’s the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF), which the Alliance has advocated using to support homeless families since the ECF began, and which I have been exploring for almost two months now as part of my summer internship.
Because I worked directly with homeless families in my former (pre-law school) life, it’s been more than a little frustrating for me this summer to learn how easily such a good program—for homeless families, for all families who are struggling economically, and for whole communities—can fall through the legislative cracks. The TANF ECF extension was originally part of H.R. 4213, which failed to pass the Senate until it was stripped of all its elements except unemployment insurance (UI). No one seems to know now what will happen to all the other vital programs that were originally included in H.R. 4213, but the Alliance is organizing an advocacy push in hopes of getting things moving again. The stated concern of some Senators about the original legislation was the contribution to the federal deficit (which may not be wa... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: Federal Legislation Takes a Front Seat
July 30, 2010
As the end date for possible extension of the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund draws ever nearer, we hear more and more pleas for Congress to pass funds for this important program that has done so much in helping end and prevent homelessness.
Related: The Wall Street Journal talked this week about the federal poverty level, an important measurement that helps us understand more about how many people could be at risk for homelessness. We’re pleased to see that notable news organizations and important thinkers are paying attention to the state of poverty and vulnerability of so many Americans.
Especially because it seems like the problem is prevalent: a startling statistic came out of Indiana this week. According to AP writer Ken Kusmer the number of homeless students has increased 26 percent in the state since 2006-07. We saw a string of similar stories in the year – is this a resurgence of that trend?
Which doesn’t mean there’s isn’t help to be had. The Pittsburg Post-Gazette wrote this week about how HPRP funds are being used prevent evictions in Westmoreland County, PA, and the Sequim Gazette wrote about great homeless assistance work in Clallam County - work that was highlighted at the Alliance’s national conference in July as one of five high-performing counties in preventing and ending homelessness. Great work!
And finally – the big news – the danger posed on the House T-HUD spending bill – we called it H.R. 5850 yesterd... Read More »