In 1996, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) made fundamental changes to the provision of public assistance (welfare) for low-income children and families. PRWORA replaced Aid to Dependent Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) with a block grant called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and transferred program creation to the states. Reauthorized as part of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, TANF will be up for reauthorization again in 2011.
The discussion surrounding welfare reform has centered on caseload reduction and the use of public assistance by low-income women, with little attention paid to the need for assistance due to poverty and economic inequality in the United States. When TANF was enacted in the 1990s, the strong economic climate provided numerous employment opportunities for low-income workers, including welfare recipients. Today’s economic downturn has left many workers unemployed and underemployed. Poverty is once again increasing in the United States.
Reauthorization of TANF allows policymakers to focus on addressing overall poverty in the United States; how individuals and families can move out of, and stay out of, poverty – and not just transition out of the welfare system.
Reauthorization of TANF will allow policymakers an opportunity to address how individuals and families can transition out of the welfare system and ultimately, out of poverty.
The YWCA supports an anti-poverty approach to welfare reform that increases education and training opportunities, opposes marriage promotion/incentives, opposes religious discrimination in hiring, restores benefits to legal immigrants, addresses barriers to self-sufficiency such as domestic violence and substance abuse, and provides affordable and accessible childcare.