Steve Daines Introduces Jobs Act to Reform TANF, Put Americans Back to Work

FILE- In this March 7, 2018, file photo, Grocery Outlet cashier Michael Foppiano assists a customer at the Grass Valley store off of Sutton Way. On Wednesday, April 4, the Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, issues its index of non-manufacturing activity for March. (Elias Funez/The …
Elias Funez/The Union via AP

Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) introduced a bill Thursday to transform the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and help Americans get off of welfare and focus on getting employment.

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The Montana senator introduced the Jobs and Opportunity with Benefits and Services for Success Act, otherwise known as the JOBS Act, to help transform the nation’s largest welfare program so that Americans can reduce their dependence on welfare and obtain gainful employment.

The legislation would rename the program the Jobs and Opportunity with Benefits and Services program instead of TANF.

The House Ways and Means Committee will also release the House version of the legislation. The House introduced the JOBS Act last congressional term.

Sen. Daines said in a statement on Thursday:

Our welfare programs should be a springboard to work and self-sufficiency, not a sinkhole into government dependency. My bill supports struggling low-income families and equips them with the skills and resources they need to find and keep a job – something that gives them hope, dignity, and a better future.

House Ways and Means ranking member Kevin Brady said:

Following the GOP tax cuts, our economy continues to soar, with wages rising at their fastest pace in a decade and near 50-year low unemployment.  There are a record 7.3 million job openings, and millions of folks on the sidelines who we need – and want – to take part in this expanding economy.  This proposal builds on that by reforming our nation’s cash-for-work welfare program, refocusing this important program on the outcome of parents getting and keeping a job.

On the Senate floor Wednesday, Sen. Daines delivered a fiery speech that chastised the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program for trapping American families into dependency and poverty rather than helping them obtain gainful employment.

Sen. Daines said on the Senate floor on Wednesday:

Our nation’s primary welfare-to-work program is broken. … TANF recognized that finding and maintaining a job is the most effective way for healthy, working-age parents to go from government dependency to self-sufficiency. … It wasn’t about handouts; it was about giving a hand up to those who needed help most.

But yet, more than twenty years after the historic 1996 reforms, Congress has neglected to act on the loopholes that are undercutting its fundamental work requirements. Today, very few states are meeting the work participation rate required by the law. … That is why I will be joining the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee this week to introduce the JOBS Act to demand positive work outcomes rather than simply meeting ineffective participation rules.

Although the economy has grown at a rapid pace under President Donald Trump, the labor participation rate remains a relatively low rate at 63.2 percent, meaning that millions of Americans could obtain a job, but, instead, they stay on America’s entitlement system.

The legislation hopes to build off of the success of the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, which replaced the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) with TANF.

The JOBS Act reforms the TANF program by:

  • Revising state programs to use and periodically reviewing individual responsibility programs
  • Revising and strengthening work requirements for TANF recipients.

Currently, less than half of the total TANF program dollars go towards supporting work for Americans on TANF. Instead, states have often used the TANF block grant from the federal government to plug up state budget holes. The JOBS Act would assist Americans under 200 percent of the poverty level by requiring states to spend a minimum level of funding on transportation and other work support services to help Americans prepare for and keep employment.

Additionally, the TANF program does not contain a particular desired outcome for sustained, unsubsidized employment for TANF recipients. Under the JOBS Act, the federal government will measure success based on the caseload that obtains and keeps a job, their earnings, and for young adults, high school completion. This adjustment would incentivize states to encourage Americans on the program to obtain jobs and complete education rather than remain stuck on the program.

One study that the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities conducted noted that states frequently do not spend TANF dollars primarily on the three core welfare program, which includes basic assistance, child care, and work programs. For example, Michigan often spends about $100 million on college aid, much of which goes to families earning more than $100,000 per year, while Arizona spends half of its TANF funds on child welfare, rather than helping able-bodied working-age adults return to work.

During his inaugural address, President Donald Trump promised to transform America’s welfare program by reducing American dependency on the country’s entitlement programs, and legislation such as Sen. Daines’s could help the president carry out this promise.

President Trump said in January 2017, “We will get our people off of welfare and back to work – rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor.”

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