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New CLS Report: Mending the Safety Net

Yesterday, Community Legal Services issued a report looking at the TANF caseload decline in Pennsylvania. Timed around the 20th anniversary of welfare reform (aka The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, or PRWORA), CLS looks at the reasons for caseload decline and makes recommendations on how Pennsylvania can ensure TANF actually helps poor families.

Here are some of the findings:

  • The PA TANF max grant (approx. $403/month) hasn't increased since 1990
  • In 2014, at least 35,000 PA families with children receiving SNAP (food stamps) were poor enough to qualify for TANF but didn't receive it
  • Unless exempt because of disability or good cause, TANF recipients MUST spend 20/30 hours per week working or in a work program
  • TANF cash grants may be small, but they can help pay the rent, cover utilities, or buy diapers - all things SNAP can't do
  • The TANF caseload in PA has declined by over 300,000 adults and children since 1996, but since 2008, the number of people leaving because they had jobs has remained steady. So despite more people leaving TANF (or not entering the program), very low-income Pennsylvanians are not necessarily earning more 
  • The average PA TANF grant of $403/month for 3 people will not cover the rent for even an efficiency apt. in 66 of 67 counties
  • TANF applicants must submit 3 job applications each week while waiting to get TANF even though they have no childcare or transportation assistance
  • There is a 5-year lifetime limit on using TANF
  • For every 100 poor families in PA, only 31 receive cash assistance from #TANF
  • TANF is a lifeline for domestic violence survivors
  • To get TANF in PA, a 3-person family's income must be under $403/month (in most counties) with savings under $1,000
Read more here.


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