The Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program was a direct response to overhaul the image of welfare programs. In 1996, it replaced such programs as Aid to Families with dependent Children (AFDC), the Job Opportunity and Basic Skills training program (JOBS) and the Emergency Assistance Program (EA). The objective of TANF was to implement useful policies from the previous three programs and present an effective welfare plan based not only on needs but presentation of policies that involved job preparation and improving conditions for work and a stable marriage (About TANF).
The goals of this program are further summarized including assistance to needed families so that the children can be cared for at homes, promotion of social opportunities, prevention of out-of-wedlock pregnancies and encouraging the maintenance of two parent families. To achieve its objective, the US government adjusted the system to be administered through various State, territories and tribal agencies instead of a direct supervision by the Federal government. The primary reason for such a decision was to distribute the program funding in a more effective manner and hold each regulating body responsible for fulfilling the objectives of TANF.
For this very purpose, the TANF Bureau was formed which comprises of five separate divisions including a Division of State TANF Policy dedicated to role out policies and guidance; Division of State and Territory TANF Management to provide technical assistance; Division of Data Collection & Analysis that deals with the statistical analysis of the collected data; Division of Tribal TANF Management which deals with all aspects of tribal matters pertaining to the program and TANF Bureau Regional Program Units that provides technical and management links between the State and other administration blocks.
Difference in Policies What differentiates this welfare program for its predecessors is the fact that TANF ends the open ended requirement of AFDC for automatic assistance but instead provides grants based on work requirements for a majority of recipients. It also initiates a time limit for the distribution of grant in order to stop the otherwise ineffective distribution and dependence on State’s funding.
Under a unified umbrella of policies, TANF has implemented different policies to better answer the critics of welfare system by designing new rules for qualification and introducing time constraints to prevent future generation from such grants by helping them gain financial freedom. Almost every aspect of old system is challenged by proposing new policies for child care, legal immigrants, food stamp program and Supplementary Security Income.
While TANF is not a perfect program but it will not be an oversimplification to state that the wide ranging implications of introducing new and useful policies are much better than the previous stand-alone program. Although, it should well be recognized that TANF is basically just another system of a perceived welfare State that is America but it definitely provides future policymakers a model for improvements in the existing TANF and related welfare programs. Benefits One of such benefits under TANF is eliminating homelessness for people who are in desperate need.
It is important to note that most participants who used to get homelessness assistance in previous programs without restrictions are not eligible under TANF. For a person to take such assistance, TANF requires that the benefits allotted to a participant must be designed to deal with crisis situation and it must only be for four months. Such rules provide credence to the idea that the State funds will not be over utilized by mass and if work conditions improve for homeless people, they would be able to better equip themselves after four months.
To critics, it must be evident that TANF do provides legislations where certain people are indeed eligible for long term ongoing assistance with the housing that can extend beyond five years but it too instructs participants to actively involve in work and assign their child support rights to the State. These provisions are in exclusion to the other basic requirements for TANF. There are numerous States and related agencies that have successfully implemented the homelessness program to allow their residents settle down.
Almost half of the States are providing short term assistance to people needing short term rental assistance, support for a solution to eviction and utility shut off (Jennifer, 2001). These also include emergency housing shelters as well as temporary shelter. Looking objectively into such type of assistance we can draw conclusions that the State is supporting the idea of a true welfare State by not relying on using welfare money solely for homelessness but instead distribute grants to a variety of aspects that may not have a stigma of welfare related to them. Drawbacks
On the contrary time limits and such constraints do provide sustenance to the cause of TANF but it is clear from several studies including the of Urban Institute that there is a constant need for regular upgrading of the program. According to the statistics, more than 50 percent of the participants who have received welfare in the past are now working in low income jobs without any benefits at all. Still more concerning are figures which indicates that most of the parents who received funding and were able to find work have now been laid of due to the economic recession and high unemployment rates.
This act has resulted in their ineligibility to receive any more funding from the program for another five years (Temp Assistance). Therefore, the committee recommended that there should be a clean long term extension of the prevailing laws so that families in need of welfare should not only be depended on welfare but rather be able to support themselves in the long run. Official & Public View of the success of TANF Some of the States such as District of Columbia are trying to establish a coherent program by involving public in its annual budget meetings.
Such a meeting took place in March 2009, where members of the public provided their opinion on how to better administer the funds. From the public remarks, it seems that there is a wide held belief that any welfare should not just be a temporary relief but supplement the future of the participant. The director of Human Services which oversees the DC TANF program was of the view that their TANF program should bring the people in workforce and support them to be self sufficient before taking them off welfare (Greg).
His remarks were coherent with the level of TANF assistance and funds didn’t rise with inflation which has made it difficult for the participants to support their children. The committee further states that the State budget didn’t take into account COLA which has resulted in less aid than actually perceived. Experts now believe that the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act PWRORA that was introduced in 1996 is becoming a success but such a success can only be retained with constant evaluation and new policies (Turner J).
In a testimony before congress in 2002, Jason Turner, responsible for domestic policy making at Heritage Foundation pointed out there was an urgent need to strengthen work requirements because the participants at that time were able to receive full funding without actively engaging in their quota of work. He insisted that the policies be made more stringent by requiring participants to come to work and cash be distributed based on the actual hours worked and not the perceived time.
Furthermore, he provided evidence that the budget of TANF program can be reduced to 10 percent without disrupting all the useful funding. Such recommendations by public representatives is a clear indication of the theories as presented by social scientists who want to see a true Welfare State based on the principles of equality and opportunity. In a series of reports published by the Urban Institute, the authors proclaim that TANF’s emphasis on work has improved results for million of families but there is a need for a long term broader perspective on the issue.
One such study extol the Program benefits only if Congress can reauthorize the implementation of the new policies that has made it difficult for some hard to serve groups to take full advantage of the program structure. It points out the fact that the most common employment barriers for individuals who stay on welfare or leave without work are poor health lack of recent work experience and access to higher education. The numbers provided were three years after PWRORA initiation but provided staggering figures constituting almost 35 to 50 percent of the program participants being affected (Loprest & Zedelewski).
Program Implementation It is a fact that various territories and tribes can not only participate in the program but are eligible to run it on their own management principles. While it is true, another report by Urban Institute submitted to the Department of Health and Human Service concluded that there were several factors which were feasible for the implementation of TANF in the tribal areas. Such factors included improvement of TANF objectives and outcomes, extension of tribal self determination, enhanced program coordination and improvement of reputation and image (Just Harvest Publications).
On the other hand, it also concluded that costs, staffing problems, risk of new program and communication with State and Counties were barrier to the acceptance of such a program. The TANF is definitely a step towards realizing the goal of a true Welfare State where meaning of welfare is not imbedded in perceived images nor attributed to poor class. While it is true that there are shortcomings in the program but such limitations can adequately be addressed by constant debates, changes in policies and regular reauthorization of TANF.
In his book, The Assault on Social Policy prominent social scientist William Roth describes a well balanced welfare program as the one that only provides a limited support thus promoting a desire to work (Roth, W: p. 64). In fact such a policy would have been appreciated by Michael Katz who was a fervent supporter of a welfare plan which doesn’t’ portray beneficiary as a recipient of welfare but instead someone who has the right to receive aid to support their families.
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