Mike Leavitt on Welfare & Poverty
Director of the E.P.A.; former Republican UT Governor
With reauthorization of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program just around the corner, the nation’s Governors want to express our appreciation for your continued efforts in support of maintaining the fundamental flexibility and funding levels within TANF that are so critical to our efforts to reform the nation’s welfare system.
Governors are proud of the remarkable change and the level of state innovation that has taken place throughout the country as a result of the 1996 welfare reform law. Not only have welfare caseloads dropped dramatically, close to 50% nationwide, but more individuals are going to work and a greater number of families are becoming self-sufficient. Perhaps even more remarkable is the transition of the welfare system from one of cash payments to one of encouraging work and personal responsibility. Welfare offices are being transformed from check-cutting offices to comprehensive employment and support centers. Former eligibility workers are taking on new responsibilities as mentors and job counselors.
None of this would have been possible, of course, without the flexibility and level of funding that was guaranteed in the TANF block grant. TANF provides states the flexibility to spend “welfare” funds on programs for low-income families far beyond basic cash assistance. [We attach an outline of reform examples] of programs that states are currently operating with their federal TANF and state maintenance-of-effort funds. While this is by no means a comprehensive list of all the programs currently in operation, it should give you a sense of the historic shift in culture that has taken place in state welfare agencies. In addition, we encourage you to get in touch with the Governor and state officials in your own state to find out more about their TANF programs.
We believe very strongly that states are moving in the right direction. We look forward to working with you as we move towards TANF reauthorization.
In 1996, Governors reluctantly agreed to a slight reduction in funding for SSBG, from $2.8 billion to $2.38 billion, with the understanding that funding would remain at $2.38 billion through fiscal 2002, and then return to $2.8 billion. However, the federal government has consistently broken that promise. The nation’s Governors strongly urge Congress and the administration to reject the proposed cuts and to restore funding and flexibility to the program.
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