Fifteen years ago today the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program was created when President Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) into law. Since TANF was created in 1996, Goodwill Industries® has provided more than 1.5 million TANF recipients with pre- and post-employment services, including skills training, job search assistance, job retention support, and other career programs tailored to their needs.
Among those served includes Sharon McGee who notes, “I came to [Goodwill] as a single mom with three kids not knowing anything about responsibility and self-sufficiency. Goodwill taught me all that. I attended money control workshops where I learned to pay bills on time. I was able to become completely self-sufficient for the first time in my life.”
As Congress considers reauthorizing the TANF program, the goal of TANF should be to provide work and self-sufficiency for people with employment challenges in good times and bad while protecting America’s poor. Unfortunately the recent recession provided an opportunity to show the TANF program’s ineffectiveness during hard economic times. Furthermore, flaws within the structure of the program have been highlighted over the years since the system fails to account for the increased employment challenges people face.
There are several barriers that prevent the current TANF program from being a successful resource for people in need which need to be addressed during reauthorization including a focus on: funding, access barriers, work requirements, participation rates, and alignment with other services such as transportation, child care, domestic violence prevention, SNAP, etc.
Goodwill Industries calls upon Congress to reauthorize and reform TANF in a timely fashion. The last time that TANF was up for reauthorization it took several years and numerous extensions. The reauthorization of TANF provides Congress with a great opportunity to ensure that the TANF program is as effective as possible to assist vulnerable Americans who rely on these supports.