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Kids do better when their parents do
better. So policymakers should look for ways to leverage and enhance the tools
we have to ensure that they are improving outcomes for the entire
family. A great place to start is by strengthening Temporary Assistance for
Needy Families (TANF), a major pathway to employment for parents with low
incomes (see infographic).
The costs of basic needs like housing and child care are increasing faster than inflation, while wages have stagnated and income inequality continues to grow. In Washington state today, one-quarter of kids have gone through repeated periods of economic hardship, during which their family has had difficulty covering the cost of putting food on the table or a roof over their heads. Adverse childhood experiences, like economic hardship, can result in levels of stress so toxic to children that the impact can last a lifetime.
We can change this trend by
strengthening programs like TANF. Since 2011, funding for TANF has
declined by $610 million, despite the fact that the number of children and
families living in poverty has increased. Cuts to the program – especially the
15 percent reduction in cash assistance – have hurt families by limiting
resources to assist parents in meeting their children’s basic needs while they
look for work.
TANF is a vital resource. Key ways legislators can strengthen the TANF program include:
Improving the economic security of Washington state’s kids and families should be at the forefront as budget negotiations commence in Olympia.
Increased investment in TANF is just one of a host of policies that can, if strengthened, improve economic well-being for families by ensuring they can cover the cost of all basic needs like housing, food, child care, and health care.
Throughout session we will continue to look at the opportunities present in our current programs and demonstrate how a two-generation approach to addressing poverty can create opportunity for all Washingtonians.
*Lara Sim is the Senior Public Policy Campaign Manager at Statewide Poverty Action Network (SPAN).