Sally Fitzgibbons Foundation

Beginning the Academic Essay

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program was created through legislation by the congress of the USA and later signed by President Clinton in 1996, (Moffitt, 2003). The act led to the development of this law was the Personal Responsibility and Work Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) which led to the development of TANF, (Brown, & Derr, 2015). It was created out of the already existing Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program. The main features which founded the principles of these funds were the devolution of the design of program and financing though block grants, ensuring there are strict work requirements to qualify for the funds and creation of lifetime limits on the number of years which one would be paid federal funds.
The history of welfare programs begun in 1935, through the Social Security Act of 1935. It led to the creation of AFDC program, its main aim was to provide financial assistance to families who had dependent children, this meant that children who were lacking natural care such as a biological parent through death, disability or being absent from their homes. As a result they were under the care of other people such as relatives, (Moffitt, 2003). With the creation of TANF in 1996, there were introduction of some of the changes in the way that the funds were managed and used. The funds were now designed by the states, unlike in AFDC where only cash was used for assistance, in TANF; the state was at liberty to use other methods of assistance such as the use of services and other forms of non-cash benefits. These funds also a time limit, people are only eligible for a period of not more than 60 months.
The working of TANF funds is different as it was before in the AFDC program, there are several requirements which are needed to be fulfilled for one to be eligible to access these funds, the following are the requirements; recipients of the funds must work as soon as they are job ready in not more than two years after coming to assistance. For single parents, they are required to engage in work activities for duration of at least 30 hours every week. Those in families with two parents they must be willing to work for a period of 35 to 55 hours every week. The failure to participate in the requirements of working can lead to the termination or reduction of the benefits to the family and finally the state ensures that half of the recipients are engaged in work activities and at least ninety percent of the families with two parents are engaged in work activities.
While there were changes which were needed to the AFDC program, there are significant challenges which are associated with the TANF program, it has failed to reach the sizable share of the needy families and it has done little to reduce the rate of poverty which is experienced by these families. Also it is not targeted towards the neediest people in the society. The program has a limited reach; according to, (Bitler, & Hoynes, 2016), one of the biggest challenges that are associated with program is that the states, even after receiving the money for the program they allocate a small share of the TANF dollars towards cash assistance. For instance in 2014, the states spent a quarter of the total funds on non-basici cash assistance, another quarter on child care and the rest on work related support activities.
Another challenge which is associated with TANF is its inability to respond to the economic downturns. For instance, during the great recession in 2007, there were reported increased unemployment rates that rose sharply. However the funding to TANF only rose modestly, because unemployment is a proxy for poverty, it is expected that with the rise in unemployment level, there should be an increase in the cases which are taken by TANF, however this is not the case, (Bitler, & Hoynes, 2016). As a result there is a lack of connection between the TANF cash assistance and decline in the employment opportunities during the Great Recession which resulted in increased volatility to experience higher rate of poverty than the expected level.
The TANF funds are available to legal immigrants after a period of five years; this provided a challenge because immigrants constitute a large proportion of the poor people in the country who are in need of these funds. With these funds unavailable to them, it shows the ineffectiveness of the funds in reducing of poverty among the poorest of the people in the society and those who need these services the most, (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Program, 2016). These funds are also not sufficient, despite the recent changes and increase in the amount of funds, they are below the poverty levels in most of the states, as a result they cannot sufficiently cover various costs such as the housing cost, for instance between 1996 and 2018, the median fair market rent rose to $924 from $543, when this is compared to the median FANF benefits which rose from $377 to 450 in the same period. This therefore shows that the amount received is still very little to sustain the families and have a decent livelihood.
In delivering of human services, there should be delivery of quality services by the providers. There should also be improvement in the accessibility, accountability and coordinating of the service delivery among the professionals and the agencies who are involved in delivery. However, in TANF, there is a challenge in the delivery of the services, they are not reaching the target in an effective manner, this is because of the financial crisis of 2007-2008 when the services experienced increased demand but they were not available to the people because of the limited opportunities available, (cbpp), 2018. Also the services which are provided in the funds have significant challenges because of the minimum term limit for assistance. Many people who have their limits and are still in poverty are not eligible for assistance and therefore there are challenges about the funds being used to reduce poverty levels. Also in provision of human services, they should be given to all people regardless of their origins however these services are not available to immigrants for a period of five years after their entry in the USA. Provision of human services should target all people.
The major source of funds for the federal government, it provides the block grants to states. At the state level they are responsible for the designing and operating the programs. For the sates to receive the funding from the federal government, the states must also ensure they use some of their own money to support some of the needs families which are within their states. Failure to do this they could face severe penalties, (Falk, 2017). Therefore the main sources of the funding are the block grant from the federal government and the state contributions. In 1996 the basic TANF block grant was set at 16.5billion each year; however this value has almost fallen by close to forty percent due to inflation. In 2016, the states spent about $15 billion TANF funds; the required amount which must be spent is about eighty percent of the funds, (Falk, 2017).
The funds are used in broad manner; this is because the goals of TANF are broad. They are used in the support of variety of services and support such as income assistance, child care, job training and education, aiding children who have been subjected to abuses and helping children in low income homes. As of 2016, 24% of the funds were used to for basic assistance, 9% was used for work activities, 17% was used for child care and 7 % was used in child welfare. The number of people who access these funds are many, for instance, between 1996 and 2000 the total number of people who were accessing these funds were 6.5 million. Specifically the goal of TANF was to increase the rates of employment among the recipients.
There should be implementation of various practices which ensures that the TANF is able to reach more people and improve its effectiveness. One way it can be improved to improve the services is through increasing the reach of TANF. This could be through the congress that could enact legislations requiring the states to attend a significant proportion through cash assistance such as 25% and at least fifty percent to the core support. States currently experience increasingly stringent requirements of work participation and they are forced to adjust other programs and spending to meet the compliance expected. Therefore through the congress there could be reduction of the work participation rates and to a lesser percentage of the TANF work load. Also the states could be encouraged to consider the ones who are least likely to work on the work load of TANF, (Burnside & Floyd, 2018). Through this way, there will be increased number of people who are vulnerable and not able to work getting this support. Another way is through improving the accountability measures of the funds. Currently the states are responsible for the tracking of TANF usage; there is a need to ensure that there are better tracking mechanism such as through ensuring that funds are tracked through the amount used in various categories and different income groups. Also there should be increased information on the different caseloads such as child cases, cash assistance caseloads and these numbers are reported depending on the poverty threshold. Through this way, there will tracking of the impacts and the effects which are felt to the families once they receive they money (Bitler, & Hoynes, 2016). Finally the services could be improved through making TANF more responsive towards the different economic downturns. The congress should enact laws which allows the expansion of the program during periods which there are economic challenges and thus the number of new applicants are increased and thus having a bigger effect on huge section of the economy.
In conclusion, this essay looked at the TANF program which was established in 1996, the program was developed as a successor to the previously existing AFDC program. It ensures that people who are in poverty such as single mothers are able to get assistance until they can be able to work again. These funds are issues by the deferral government through the states. The funds however face several challenges which could be mitigated to increase their effectiveness. Some of the challenges are they are not enough to cater for all needs such as housing, they are also not able to cater for increased number of people falling into poverty such as in economic recession which affects their services.

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