Friday News Roundup: the TANF month

written by Catherine An
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 Policy priorities in which LaDonna Pavetti (author of the report) called TANF ECF an "effective jobs program" and that eliminating it would "put more people out of work right now." The Register noted that emergency fund employed 6,461 people in the state. In Chicago, the Public News Service warned of "thousands of jobs to disappear by the end of September," in a city where the emergency fund contributed to 25,000 subsidized jobs through a program called "Put Illinois to Work”. TANF ECF also made an appearance in the Huffington Post. According to the online news source, the program is responsible for creating 240,000 jobs across the country - jobs that are in danger of vanishing when the funding dries up. The article quotes House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying the program is "as positive an initiative for job creation as you can make," noting that the House had passed reauthorization for the emergency fund. The article also quoted Christine Owens, director of the National Employment Law Project who said, "The emergency fund has tremendously helped states create new employment opportunities...If Congress fails to reauthorize the Fund, those subsidies will vanish along with the job opportunities they provide." The program even received global attention this week, with a piece in the International Business Times. Writer Manikandan Raman concludes that, “The failure to extend the program would eliminate tens of thousands of jobs and throw away an opportunity to create additional jobs.” What can you do? Glad you asked! There’s a sliver of time left to persuade your senator to make a difference. The Alliance and other advocacy organizations are supporting the effort led by Sen. John Kerry (D – MA). The Senator is circulating a sign-on letter encouraging the Senate to pass the extension of the emergency fund. For more information about the effort – and to find out how you can contact YOUR senator – check out a previous post.