TANF Reconciliation Letter to the Senate

December 19, 2005

United States Senate
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Senator:

On behalf of the 150,000 members and affiliates of the American Psychological Association (APA), I am writing to urge you to ensure that the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program is not reauthorized as part of the pending budget reconciliation legislation.  As you know, the House bill (H.R. 4241) –which passed the House earlier today as part of budget reconciliation includes TANF reauthorization language, while the Senate bill (S.1932) does not.  TANF does not belong in reconciliation. 

The Senate Finance Committee passed a TANF reauthorization bill earlier this year that is significantly different from the House-passed provisions.  The TANF proposal in the House reconciliation bill contains significant and controversial policy changes that require and deserve full congressional debate.

Increased work requirements impose significant hardship on poor families. The language included in the House legislation requires many more families to participate for longer hours in paid or unpaid work.  This would make it more difficult for poor parents to get education, training, rehabilitation or other services to enable them to work at decent pay or address barriers to employment, such as mental health or substance abuse problems. Such activities need to be counted under work requirements to enable individuals to transition to gainful employment.

Moreover, the House bill fails to make appropriate accommodations for parents with disabilities or those who care for children with disabilities, some of whom may be unable to work in a job for 24 hours.  States would not be permitted to count recipients toward the federal work participation rates they must meet if they participate in specialized rehabilitation services designed to help them address these serious barriers to employment.  If parents are placed in activities that are not tailored to their circumstances and the parent is unable to comply with the requirements to participate in those activities, the consequences could be severe. 

An estimated 330,000 children in low-income working families would lose child care assistance.  The amount of child care funding in the House bill is not sufficient to enable states to continue their current child care efforts, much less meet the expanded needs that the bill’s increased work requirements would create. 

TANF is a landmark piece of legislation that provides much needed resources to many of the most vulnerable members of our society.  We urge you to take these important issues into consideration as you make decisions regarding the reconciliation bill.  If you have any questions, please contact Diane Elmore, Ph.D., at (202) 336-6062.

Sincerely,

Gwendolyn Puryear Keita, Ph.D.
Executive Director
Public Interest Directorate