TANF REAUTHORIZATION: ESSENTIAL SUPPORTS FOR MOVING FAMILIES UP THE CAREER LADDER TO SELF-SUFFICIENCY

WHEREAS, Congress is scheduled to reauthorize The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) which provides block grants to states under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, by September 30, 2002; and Mayors recognize that the first phase of welfare reform has been successful in terms of caseload reduction nationwide; and

WHEREAS, Mayors are concerned that the goal of self-sufficiency in the current law is not being met. Although millions of welfare recipients have left the rolls and gone to work, very few of them are near self-sufficiency; and

WHEREAS, self-sufficiency is not meeting the poverty line, nor becoming ineligible for cash assistance under TANF, nor becoming ineligible for social safety net programs like housing and food stamps. Self sufficiency is when a family can meet its basic needs for housing, food, health care, child care, transportation and taxes; and

WHEREAS, TANF reauthorization must fully fund supportive services essential to obtaining and retaining a job/career; and

WHEREAS, cities face unique challenges to welfare reform because they have a greater share of the nation's welfare caseloads and have registered a much slower rate of decline, leaving many cities with a disproportionate share of hard-to-place recipients; and many of the hardest-to-serve welfare recipients live in some of the poorest, violent, isolated and blighted neighborhoods in America where poverty is an expectation and upward mobility is virtually unknown; and

WHEREAS, local elected officials will remain ultimately responsible for the welfare of most TANF recipients and TANF leavers; and

WHEREAS, supportive services including childcare, transportation, food stamps, housing supports, Medicaid, and upgrade skills training are key to enable former TANF recipients and other low-wage workers to continue working and must be in place so that people can not only obtain jobs, but retain them and move them up career ladders; and

WHEREAS, mayors are concerned about states that are using TANF funds for "supplantation" of state budgets by diverting welfare savings from their intended purpose of serving low-income families and using them for purposes unrelated to helping poor families; and

WHEREAS, TANF was designed to provide enormous flexibility based on the needs of each state and local area and mayors are very concerned that the President's proposal reverses this and is too prescriptive to states,

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that The U.S. Conference of Mayors supports the reauthorization of TANF in its block grant form with at least an inflationary increase in funding; and that TANF "self-sufficiency" be defined as the ability of a family to meet its basic needs for housing, food, childcare, transportation, healthcare and taxes; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that incentives must be awarded based on a state's ability to move families towards the goal of family self-sufficiency; and that The U.S. Conference of Mayors calls on Congress to ensure that state TANF savings are used as intended to be reinvested into low-income families and not to supplant state spending; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that TANF reauthorization should provide local flexibility to design a mix of services to enable TANF recipients to meet the competing responsibilities of work, family and skill development; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that work supports must be provided beyond the date that individuals replace cash assistance with work income, including quality childcare, Medical Assistance coverage, support for drug treatment and mental health rehabilitation, transportation solutions that enhance job access and access to affordable public housing benefits; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The U.S. Conference of Mayors calls for Congress to invest at least $20 billion for childcare through the Child Care Development Block Grant to ensure that two million more eligible children could receive assistance and that quality improvements can be made.