The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF) is helping states to prevent and end homelessness for families across the country. ECF funds can help states create subsidized employment for low-income parents, provide short-term rent assistance to families experiencing a housing crisis, and offer cash assistance to low-income families.
Unfortunately, ECF funds are due to expire on September 30!
We must urge the Senate to take action NOW to extend the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund.
Today, Senator Kerry (D-MA) began circulating a "Dear Colleague" congressional sign-on letter urging Senate leaders to provide a one-year, $2.5 billion extension of the ECF before it expires on September 30. For more information, see "Background" below. The deadline for joining the letter is Wednesday, September 15 at 12 p.m. ET.
What You Can Do
When senators return to Washington on September 14, they will only have two short weeks to extend the TANF ECF. Please make sure your senators know how these resources could benefit families in your state and urge them to extend the ECF. They can show their support by signing onto Senator Kerry's sign-on letter.
- Call the housing staffers in your senators' offices. Senators' phone numbers can be found by calling the congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121.
- Explain what your state is already doing with ECF dollars and what you could do with more. For more information on how your state is currently using TANF ECF dollars, click here.
- Ask them to ask their bosses to sign onto Senator Kerry's "Dear Colleague" letter urging Senate leaders to extend the ECF by September 30. The deadline for signing on is Wednesday, September 15 at 12 p.m. ET.
- Ask when you can follow up to find out if their bosses will sign onto the letter.
Interested senators should contact Alison Bonebrake in Senator Kerry's office at Alison_Bonebrake@kerry.senate.gov to sign onto the letter.
In addition, if your state and community are not already accessing ECF dollars, you should work with key officials at both the state and local level to access the next round of funds for homelessness prevention and assistance.
What is TANF ECF?
The TANF Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF) was created through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) in early 2009, though it is set to expire on September 30, 2010. It provides critical resources to states to:
How Can TANF ECF Serve People Experiencing Homelessness?
- Create new work opportunities for low-income mothers and fathers so they can provide care for their children (subsidized employment);
- Provide emergency assistance to families experiencing a housing crisis - including mortgage assistance, help paying for motels, eviction prevention, and rapid re-housing assistance (short-term benefits); and
- Cover the increased costs of providing cash assistance to eligible, low-income families who may have lost jobs and are ineligible for unemployment insurance so that states do not have to absorb the increased costs by cutting other programs.
TANF ECF funds can be used to prevent and end homelessness. In fact, ECF funds have helped create more than 200,000 jobs across the country for low-income families who might be at risk of or experiencing homelessness.
In addition, TANF ECF can be used with Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) funds to prevent and end family homelessness. Carmen Nazario, Assistant Secretary for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Mercedes Marquez, Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, had this to say about combining TANF ECF and HPRP funds to serve homeless and at-risk families:
"As parents have lost jobs or faced other economic challenges, many families are falling behind on rent or mortgage payments and are at imminent risk of becoming homeless. Many households are confronted by eviction from their apartment or foreclosure on their home, while others have already fallen into homelessness but may be able to move toward stability with immediate assistance. ... Where possible, we strongly encourage State TANF agencies to work together with HPRP programs to maximize the benefit and efficiency of both resources to serve families."
Click here for more information on how the TANF ECF can be used in conjunction with HPRP funds to help homeless families.
Who Else Supports a TANF ECF Extension?
State and County leaders across the country have urged Congress to take action and extend the TANF ECF. The National Governors' Association, the National Council of State Legislatures, and the National Council of Counties Board of Directors have all expressed their support of this extension.
Join the movement to preserve and expand programs that can help families avoid homelessness and help families achieve greater economic self-sufficiency by improving their work skills. Urge your senators to support the extension to the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund TODAY.