Schmudget Blog
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Care about Kids? Stop Cutting Programs that Help Them

Posted by Lori Pfingst at Mar 20, 2012 12:20 PM |

Under the proposed cuts to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program in the latest Senate budget, thousands of children would be denied access to a key support system that helps ensure that their basic health, safety, and housing needs are met. 

Without the resources provided by TANF, low income children are more likely to go hungry, become homeless, and have poor health outcomes. Is this the kind of state we want?  Deeper cuts to TANF will disproportionately hurt kids and is the wrong approach to close our budget gap.

Seven of every 10 TANF recipients are children (see figure). Of all TANF cases:

  • Half (50 percent) are children living with a single adult, mostly women, who need affordable child care so they can find or keep a job;
  • Forty percent are referred to as “child only”, which includes children cared for by relatives because their parents are unable to, children in immigrant families, children with a disability, and those being care for by a legal guardian; and
  • Just 10 percent are children living with two adults.


Cutting the program disproportionally harms children, and runs counter to TANF’s original mission – to provide support to low income families during hard times so they can work.  Cash assistance provided under the program has been significantly reduced so that it covers just one-quarter (27 percent) of families’ basic needs.  Furthermore, recently-enacted cuts have resulted in 27,000 families being cut off from Working Connections Child Care, a TANF-related program that supports work by providing low income families with access to affordable child care.

Despite what critics say, the TANF program is not a windfall of cash.  It is barely enough to meet even the most basic needs. A family of three, for example, has to make less than $11,460 a year to become eligible; and the most they can receive in cash assistance is $478 per month. 

We have a choice. Instead of cutting $155 million in this critical investment for kids, our state could close ineffective tax breaks such as a business tax deduction for out-of-state banks ($18 million), a sales tax exemption for non-organic fertilizer ($41 million), or a trade-in-exemption for luxury vehicles ($94 million), and even generate billions of future revenue with a new tax on capital gains. There is still time to make smart choices that invest in our children’s safety, health, and economic security. 


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