Goodwill® Urges Congress to Act on Behalf of American Workers in Poverty

As America wraps up the summer with cookouts and parades this Labor Day, Goodwill Industries International is calling on Congress to ensure the continuation of a key form of employment assistance for families in need.
The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which was signed into law in 1997, provides much-needed cash assistance — commonly referred to as welfare — to millions of unemployed parents with dependent children. In addition, it allows states to work with community-based organizations such as Goodwill® to provide a variety of career programs designed to keep individuals off welfare for good.
Additional funding for TANF, which was extended under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (also known as the Recovery Act), is due to run out at the end of the current federal fiscal year, September 30, 2010. The Obama Administration’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2011 would extend the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund for one more year.
Goodwill strongly urges Congress to approve the extension of this much-needed program funding. More assistance is needed, however, as evidenced by the 5-percent increase in welfare rolls last year — the first increase in 15 years. In addition, TANF, as currently constructed, is failing to help those who need the program the most. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, during the first 19 months of the recession, the number of TANF recipients rose 6.6 percent; during the same period, the number of food stamp recipients jumped 27.4 percent and the unemployment rate skyrocketed 80 percent.
To combat this growing problem, Congress must take a two-pronged approach to assisting more families who are living in extreme poverty: extend funding for TANF and address structural problems that exist within the program.
“Not only does Goodwill support more funding for TANF, but we also look to Congress to implement legislation that will lead to a reduction of barriers people encounter while trying to access the program, and we seek greater collaboration between agencies providing services to TANF recipients,” said Jim Gibbons, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries International. “In this way, we will be able to help more people climb out of poverty, move off welfare, and head on a path toward self-sufficiency.”
Obstacles to success include difficult-to-meet participation rates, case management demands and reporting requirements that have placed too great a burden on service providers, hindering their ability to provide the assistance necessary to achieve long-term objectives. Another barrier to the success of this program is the fact that gainful employment often leads to an overall decrease in income as families lose other financial assistance, such as child care and food stamps.
“It’s quite clear that TANF must be extended because of a great continued great need,” said Gibbons. “It is equally clear that in order for TANF to be most effective, it must be made more accessible and responsive to those families in need.”
Since the inception of the TANF program, Goodwill has provided more than 1.5 million TANF recipients across the United States with pre- and post-employment services, including skills training, job search assistance, job retention support, and other career programs tailored to their needs.
Now more than ever, agencies such as Goodwill need to have the tools necessary to continue these efforts as America works to recover from devastating job losses and economic weakness.