For the good: Just before departing for Thanksgiving recess, the Senate voted to extend TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) funding through September 30, 2011, circumventing what would have been certain disaster for our nation's neediest if the program had been allowed to expire in December, as the bill originally stipulated. According to Ms Foundation grantee the National Women's Law Center, the House will now take up -- and likely pass -- the full bill at some point in the coming days, marking a major win for families in need nationwide.
But there's significant bad news to report as well...
What the Senate left out of the bill in order to win passage was an extension of the TANF Emergency Fund, a program that was, according to NWLC, funded separately from TANF itself and helped create more than 250,000 subsidized jobs and increased services for families wounded by the recession. As noted on the NWLC blog,
The [TANF Emergency] Fund expired September 30—and tens of thousands of jobs it supported were lost or will be as states terminate their subsidized jobs programs. Crucial funding for child support enforcement also ended September 30, and families will lose out on an estimated $2 billion in uncollected child support next year if the funding is not restored.The loss of funding for these elements of TANF carries huge consequences for families in need -- and for our local, state and national economies as well (remember: you can't spur an economy to recovery when people don't have good paying jobs, or money to spend). In a climate where corporations are reaping record profits, but average Janes and Joes still can't find quality jobs that will help them make ends meet, the rejection of the TANF Emergency Fund -- not to mention the failure to extend unemployment benefits -- should be considered nothing less than a slap in the face to all working Americans.
That said, there's still time for Congress to get it right: in the few weeks left before the end of this legislative session, they have the opportunity to restore TANF Emergency Funding retroactively -- and Ms. Foundation grantee Jobs With Justice is helping rally support to encourage elected officials to do just that. Join their campaign to restore unemployment benefits and funding for the TANF emergency fund; contact Congress today!