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House Passes Bill Extending Aid for Families - But Blocking Access
12/16/2011

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed House Resolution H.R. 3659 by voice vote that extends the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program through September 30, 2012. The state's TANF block grant is used to fund the California Work Incentives and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) program, which provides basic needs grants and work-training for very poor families with children.


Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed House Resolution H.R. 3659 by voice vote that extends the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program through September 30, 2012. The state's TANF block grant is used to fund the California Work Incentives and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) program, which provides basic needs grants and work-training for very poor families with children. [1]

H.R. 3695 language differed slightly from the TANF provisions passed by the House earlier in the week as part of H.R. 3630. Though both bills included language that would place restrictions on how benefits can be accessed, the changes made to these provisions in H.R. 3695 were seen as an improvement. Responding to media reports[2] of withdrawals of TANF benefits through Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) from ATMs located in casinos, strip clubs or other locations, H.R. 3695 requires states to block access to these funds in those locations. A copy of the Congressional Record, including the floor debate and votes is attached below.
 
Western Center does not support the assertion that this policy change is needed. In the case of California, less than half of one percent of benefits were withdrawn in casinos and adult entertainment locations and there is no reason to believe that funds withdrawn in these locations have been used at these locations or in an inappropriate manner. Additionally, we believe that blocking access to these locations could impact the already limited access to ATM machines that many TANF recipients struggle with. 
 
In order for the bill to become law, the Senate would have to pass identical legislation and it would need to be signed by the President. The Senate has not acted yet, and it is not clear which legislative vehicle it would travel in, but it is expected that the TANF extension will be passed next week. Even if the blocking provisions in H.R. 3695 becomes law, their impact on California will be little if at all, as the state already implemented TANF blocking at casinos, adult entertainment facilities, liquor stores and other locations in 2010. Meanwhile, TANF recipients in California still struggle to find ATMs where they can access their benefits without a $3.00 surcharge, and pay a total of $16 million per year in surcharges.[3] And Western Center has recently filed papers in court for a low-income working woman who depends on TANF benefits to supplement her income whose benefits were stolen and did not have her benefits reimbursed for two years.[4] 
 
Reacting to yesterday's vote, Congresswoman Karen Bass, former speaker of the California State Assembly, said: "Restricting where a TANF recipient can buy groceries and withdraw their monetary benefits only costs these families more money when they have to travel outside of their neighborhoods to find grocery stores or access an ATM." For more of her reaction, go to:
 
Even though TANF is expected to be reauthorized prior to December 31, 2011 expiration, the extension in H.R. 3573 is only until September 30, 2012. During this 9 month period, it is expected that Congress will engage in a more substantive conversation about the goals of TANF and how to reach those goals. In anticipation for this conversation, Representative Gwen Moore has introduced the RISE Out of Poverty Act (H.R. 3573) which aims to reduce child poverty by permanently authorizing the TANF program as a funding stream for subsidized employment, and revise the work participation rules for families receiving cash assistance.
 
Western Center will continue to monitor the conversation about TANF Reauthorization in Washington, D.C. and advocate for policy changes that improve the well-being of our poorest families.
 
The Budget and Policy Priorities' maintains up-to-date information about TANF programs throughout the country: http://www.cbpp.org/research/index.cfm?fa=topic&id=42
 
For more information about Western Center's TANF or CalWORKs advocacy, contact: 
 
Jessica Bartholow                          Mike Herald
Legislative Advocate                      Legislative Advocate
jbartholow@wclp.org                          mherald@wclp.org

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Attached Files
File U.S. House Floor Debate and Votes H.R. 3659 Download

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Headquarters - 3701 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 208, Los Angeles, CA 90010

(213) 487-7211

© 2014 Western Center on Law & Poverty, Inc.  WCLP, WESTERN CENTER ON LAW & POVERTY, and WESTERN CENTER ON LAW & POVERTY & Design are registered trademarks owned by Western Center on Law & Poverty, Inc.  All rights reserved.  WCLP®

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