Mayor Fenty has produced a plan for closing the District of Columbia's budget gap that would, among other things, cut funding for TANF benefits. The cut would be achieved by reducing the maximum benefits families can receive after they have participated in the program for a total of five years.
This is a backdoor way of changing long-standing District policy. It would have the effect of sanctioning TANF families for being unable to achieve sustained self-sufficiency -- even though, in many cases, their continuing need results from acknowledged weaknesses in the program.
Unlike the federal time limit, the Mayor's proposal would provide no exemption for victims of domestic violence or other cases of hardship. Families would be penalized for any and all barriers to living wage employment, including severe physical and mental disabilities.
TANF families already have to struggle because benefits are so low. The proposed reduction would drop a family of three from 28 percent to 22 percent of the very low federal poverty line. The family would have to try to survive on less than $350 a month in one of the highest-cost cities in the country.
The DC Council has other options for closing the budget gap. Tell Councilmembers to reject the proposed TANF benefits cut.
Photo credit: tdenham