Making Justice Real

The Official Blog of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia

Help Save Critical Cash Supports For Families Living In Poverty

We need your help to save critical cash supports for families living in poverty.   The Mayor proposes cutting thousands of the most vulnerable families from welfare.

If you’re a District resident, please call and e-mail your councilmember, the District’s at-large councilmembers and Chairman Gray TODAY, WEDNESDAY JULY 29, 2009 and again on FRIDAY, JULY 31, 2009 to demand that the TANF provisions be stripped from the Mayor’s budget proposal.  At a minimum, the Council should prevent the Mayor from cutting benefits for the District’s poorest kids. 

Please tell your councilmember:

  1. Not to shred the safety net! The burden of the District’s budget shortfall must be shared by everyone, not just the poorest among us. Middle class and wealthy District residents need to share the burden of balancing the budget.
  2. To strip out the Mayor’s TANF proposal from this budget legislation

a.  TANF sanctions hurt kids and won’t help TANF recipients get jobs.   

b.  The way to improve employability among TANF recipients is through improved services and supports, not by punishing kids whose families are already struggling to survive. 

The single largest program cut in Mayor Fenty’s recent budget plan is a $6.2 million reduction in the TANF program — which provides cash assistance and job readiness services to low-income families with children.  TANF is a critical safety net program, providing support to one-third of the District’s children, including women fleeing domestic violence, people with disabilities who don’t get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, and many families who lost jobs in the economic downturn.  The Mayor’s budget proposal would cut monthly cash benefits for these families if they do not meet requirements to participate in work activities — and for the first time in DC’s history, could eliminate benefits entirely for some families.  The proposal also would increase benefits for those who meet the requirements.

Just to make this more concrete: a mother and two children on TANF currently receive $428 per month in TANF benefits.  Imagine trying to pay for rent, clothing, metro fare, food and all other necessities for yourself and two children with that amount of money, even with Food Stamps and Medicaid.  Under the Mayor’s proposal, a sanctioned family’s grant would go down to $214 per month, and could eventually be reduced to $0.

The goal of these provisions is to encourage more TANF parents to prepare for employment, but the approach is seriously flawed.  Rather than incentivize families to move toward work, the new penalties are likely to push vulnerable families — including survivors of domestic violence, and parents struggling to treat their own mental illness or caring for a child with a chronic health conditions — deeper into poverty. Please help us to preserve these critical benefits!

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