States will face penalties for misuse of TANF funds as part of legislation that was voted out of the United States House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee yesterday.
House Resolution 5838 is officially named the Improving Access to Work Act. HR5838 is one of many parts of the Jobs and Opportunity with Benefits and Services for Success Act. Commonly referred to as the JOBS for Success Act, this amendatory bill is meant to reform the use of public welfare funding that many states receive.
Congressman Darin LaHood, local representative of Illinois’ 18th House District, is the lead sponsor of this legislation. LaHood explains the role TANF plays in America today.
“TANF, a welfare system we have in our country, stands for Temporary Assitance for Needy Families. TANF has served a very vital role in helping families. It was established in 1996, and helps folks, particularly women with young children, elderly folks, and people with disabilities that need assistance.”
Congressman LaHood details why this reform is vital to ensuring the future of American people is properly protected, instead of allowing state governments to line their pockets with this money for other projects not concerning citizen welfare and employment.
“We are making sure the money is being spent correctly. For far too long, states that receive this TANF money are using it as what I would call a slush fund in a lot of ways. These states have been using this money for things that have nothing to do with helping families that need it or people that are poor or disadvantaged. For instance, the state of Louisiana used this money for transportation projects. What my particular amendment to this bill does is tighten that up and we say that if states don’t use this the way that they should, then they will be penalized and up to 25% of what you get will be taken back.”
LaHood describes why employment is both a system of individual growth and also a nationwide issue, with a staggering number of jobs currently listed as open in the country.
“The other part, and the more important part, of how we reform TANF is… Right now, we have six million unfilled jobs in the United States despite a record low unemployment. What we’re trying to do with this amendment is move people off TANF and move them into the workplace. The best social program in our country is a job and getting people into the workforce. We allocate more money in the program to job training, getting people the skills they need. We focus the TANF dollars on moving people off welfare, off TANF, and into the workforce. We think that is the right approach to take, and we’re talking about able-bodied working adults here. We’re not talking about single, poor mothers with young children or elderly folks or people with disabilities.”
The 18th District Congressman outlines the path that HR 5838 is currently taking. LaHood also offers his hopes for the near future concerning HR 5838 and the bill’s benefits.
“We were happy that the bill was voted out of the Ways and Means committee. I serve on that committee and was proud to support it. It passed, and it will now come to the House floor sometime in June. We hope to pass it there, I think we’ll have bipartisan support, and then it’ll move to the Senate, and I look forward to hopefully getting it to the President’s desk to be signed into law. It’ll be good for taxpayers in reforming our welfare program, but most importantly it helps individuals in getting them off TANF, and helping them receive any educational and vocational skills necessary to be in the workforce.”
In 2016, almost 40 percent of the states that got TANF block grants abused this system without recording a single hour of the work or training activities meant to be funded by TANF.