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Lawmakers: Make TANF Work for Children

Poverty & Family Economics

Youth Today

The verdict is out: 20 years later, the only federal cash assistance program for low-income families desperately needs an overhaul.

In 1996, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program was enacted — a historic welfare reform initiative whose core values have since gone askew. States have overwhelmingly used TANF funds for everything except its original intent: reducing child poverty and getting families back to work.

Under the program’s constricting work and time-limit requirements, just under 25 percent of all poor families with children receive cash assistance today. States have placed such harsh restrictions on benefits that families can’t access the help they need and can’t…

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