When parents find themselves in a difficult situation and decide that their salary is not enough to support their children, families in need may be asked to provide food and shelter for their children while they work to improve their financial situation. You may be able to receive help from a temporary assistance program.
But the Maryland Economic Policy Center, a progressive nonprofit research and analysis organization, says the federal government’s anti-poverty programs currently aren’t doing enough to lift families out of low-income economic status and put them on welfare. They argue that it can even perpetuate negative stereotypes about people.
MDCEP says Maryland should put more money into the pockets of struggling families, among other measures, to improve the lives of parents and children who are just trying to get by. claims.
“This program has a long history of not adequately meeting the needs of people experiencing poverty. However, despite the flaws in the federal program, not only in Maryland but across the country, “A tremendous effort continues to improve how programs are run at the state level to better support families in need,” said Jasmine Arambre, senior policy fellow at MDCEP.
She is the author of the report, “More Basic Support is Needed to Promote Economic Mobility and Security for Families Receiving TANF in Maryland,” which was supported by a grant from the Abell Foundation. I am the author of
MDCEP believes more funds should be put into immediate cash assistance to help families cope with day-to-day expenses, especially as rising housing costs and expenses continue to be a challenge for low-income households. is suggesting.
“The reality is that money is essential to survival,” the report states. We can do more for families by ensuring that cash assistance accounts for the majority of TANF spending across the state. ”
This report outlines the history of the TANF Fund and its flawed management. The TANF program was created in the mid-1990s as a “welfare reform” that gave states flexibility in how they supported low-income families. The program is funded by state and federal funds, and the funds are used for four purposes: Promoting job readiness, work, and marriage. Preventing and reducing unmarried pregnancies. Encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families, according to the MDCEP report.
Families using the program must comply with certain eligibility requirements to qualify, according to the Maryland Department of Human Services. This includes cooperating with child support payments, participating in work activities, complying with substance abuse regulations, and meeting financial requirements.
In fiscal year 2021, Maryland spent $616 million on the TANF program, which includes both state and federal funds.
The federal government is distributing $16.5 billion in block grants to all states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and American Indian tribes. In fiscal year 2021, the federal government provided $228 million in funding to Maryland’s TANF program.
The $16.5 billion block grant funding has remained unchanged since 1996 and “therefore has lost more than 40 percent of its value despite changes in demographics and population growth,” the report said.
The report notes that Maryland’s core programs for TANF funding are cash assistance, known as Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA), and job training programs, known as the Work Opportunity Program.
But the report says only a third of combined state and federal funding goes to the two core programs. The remaining 63% goes to non-core programs. While these non-core programs may still go to projects seeking to assist low-income households, MDCEP notes that some of those funds could be better used to fund cash assistance or job training programs. concluded that it would be used.
According to the report, “Maryland’s choices about where to spend federal and state TANF funds demonstrate that the state is not investing as much in its core programs as it could and should have. ”. “This is significant considering that in 2021, one in four children in Maryland had a parent without steady employment, and nearly one-third lived in households with high housing costs. “This is especially important because TANF provides a critical lifeline of cash to low-income families, as well as critical employment assistance to help parents find and keep quality jobs.”
Additionally, millions of dollars would be left over at the end of each fiscal year and could be used to provide additional cash assistance to families and employment programs. After spending, there was $63.5 million left in federal TANF funding for 2022, partially swollen by the addition of COVID-19 relief funds.
Another recommended policy option supported by MDCEP is to actually redirect funds from child welfare services to cash assistance.
“Studies have linked material hardship, such as the inability to provide for needs such as food, medical care, and housing, to an increased risk of involvement in the child welfare system,” the report states.
Aramburu said that in child welfare settings, “neglect” often refers to situations where “parents are really struggling to provide for their children due to some type of economic crisis.”
The idea is to provide more resources to families through basic cash assistance to prevent the neglect that prompts the involvement of child welfare services in the first place.
“That way, unfortunately, we won’t have a situation where children are removed from their home because the family is experiencing financial hardship,” she said.
“Welfare reform” and racial discrimination
Aramburu also said TANF has a “legacy of racism” and often perpetuates negative stereotypes about people who use government assistance, especially single mothers, and especially Black women.
She said “these kinds of racist assumptions are woven into the fabric of American welfare policy,” including TANF assistance.
“TANF has always operated on the idea that poverty is based on individual responsibility, not collective or systemic failure,” she said. “So, in other words, your moral character is what determines whether you deserve help or not, and this core idea is racist.”
According to the report, ineffective and harmful policies include “setting deadlines that cut families off from assistance; increasing work requirements that are inconsistent with parents’ needs, skills, and experience; Family caps that limit support if you have additional children; Lower benefit levels that don’t take into account cost-of-living adjustments; Drug testing; Resource limitations; and entire programs that impose sanctions if families fail to meet requirements. management and punitive nature.”
Aramburu added, “These policies most impact families of color, who are more likely to be in a position of needing access to social safety nets like TANF.” .
The report, which uses data collected by the University of Maryland School of Social Work, notes that there will be nearly 28,000 families with active TANF cases in Maryland in 2022. Of those families, 96% included children, and 53% had children under 5 years of age.
According to the data, 59% of children receiving TANF services are Black, 18% are White, 15% are multiracial, 7% are Latina/A/O, and less than 1% are Asian. .