Tag Archives: TANF

TANF programs, already slashed earlier this year, drop again

By Joanne Zuhl, Staff Writer

Misty McGee is stuck in the waiting game.

“I feel like I’m on hold. It’s really frustrating.”

Her biggest opponent is her own health. Cancer at a young age took her out of school life and into a hospital regimen that included two surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation treatments. Working against her are multiple disabilities that have hampered her attempts to secure gainful employment. Three years ago she escaped with her son from an abusive relationship and into shelter.

She got out of the shelter with the help of the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF program. Now, with chronic health issues preventing her from working – she’s says her doctor has had her on medical leave for the past year and a half – she’s wading through the years-long process of getting Supplemental Security Income. As is the routine for the majority of applicants, Misty was denied in the first round. She believes that she could get back to work eventually, but the program — that in her own words has helped her so much — will not be there to provide child support should she look for and secure work. And the TANF JOBS program is mere shadow of it’s former self, leaving people with high barriers to employment, similar to Misty, on the bubble. Continue reading

Poverty figures unlikely to change course anytime soon

By Joanne Zuhl, Staff Writer

Census figures released Tuesday put on paper what many of us have known for a long time. Times are tough, getting tougher.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s figures, the nation’s official poverty rate in 2010 increased from 14.3 percent in 2009 to 15.1 percent — the third consecutive annual increase in the poverty rate and the highest since 1993. The Bureau estimates that more than 2.5 million entered poverty in 2010, totaling more than 46 million Americans. It is the fourth consecutive increase in that figure, and the highest number since poverty estimates have been published.

Oregon’s poverty rate is at 14.1 percent, essentially unchanged from 2009.

“The increase in poverty obviously means that there is a greater need for a social safety net,” said Chuck Sheketoff, executive director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy. “We think today’s news about the increase in the poverty rate means that both Congress and the state need to start creating a good, robust jobs program and raising the necessarily revenues to fund the public services to lift people out of poverty.”

Sheketoff said the figures were not surprising, given the severity of the recession and the anemic recovery.

“Oregon has never done a good job at reducing the poverty rate,” Sheketoff said. “And unfortunately we have no one in state government who is responsible for that.”

In 2009, the Oregon State Legislature did raise taxes to cover the budget shortfall for basic services. The 2011 legislature did not, a move Sheketoff calls ill-advised. Among the reductions this year were cuts to the employment and skills training programs and child care services for low-income parents seeking employment.

The numbers may be the highest since 1993, but the conditions are different, Sheketoff said.

“Our safety net for poor families with children was better in the early 1990s,” he said. “We had a more robust program for families with dependent children, a more robust jobs programs and skills program. We are serving a smaller percentage of the poor than we used to and we’re giving them less. The legislature wrongly scaled back the basic job opportunity and skills program. We’ve let inflation erode access and made cutbacks.” Continue reading

Breaking News: Lawmakers vote to preserve TANF assistance timeline

Threatened cut to 18-month lifetime limit dies in House and Senate budget committee

By Amanda Waldroupe, Staff Writer

The 60-month time limit to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program will not be cut by the Oregon Legislature, as many advocates for low-income and impoverished families feared. The proposal on the table was to slash the lifetime time limit to 18 months, giving Oregonians the lowest time limit in the nation.

The Joint Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Services, which writes the budgets for the state’s human services programs, approved TANF’s budget and program changes during committee meetings this week, including funding to preserve the 60-month time limit, as well as some programs and services. The vote caps off months of campaigning by people in poverty and their advocates to prevent people from losing their housing and children as a result of the cuts.

“We’re happy,” said Patti Whitney-Wise, the executive director of the Oregon Hunger Relief Task Force and the advocate leading the charge to protect TANF from budget cuts. “We’re pleased that some of the biggest holes were (filled).”

$12.6 million was added back to the TANF program to preserve the 60-month time limit that families can receive the program’s monthly cash grant. That grant tops out at $506 per month for a family of four or more.

Gov. John Kitzhaber’s recommended budget called for reducing TANF’s budget by $67 million and reducing the time limit to 18 months, which would have affected 7,000 Oregon families.

Continue reading

Hope still afloat in Salem for TANF families

By Israel Bayer, Staff Writer

For months, state lawmakers have been mulling over drastic budget cuts to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, program that would not only cut the program by about 50 percent in revenue, it would also create the shortest time limit for assistance in the nation.

TANF specifically serves families with children with incomes below the federal poverty level. The maximum a family can receive is $506 a month for a family with four or more children, with a lifetime eligibility limit set at 60 months, in line with federal policy. Continue reading

Multnomah County Commissioners vote to oppose TANF cuts

With a unanimous vote, Multnomah County Commissioners put itself on the record opposing plans in Salem to drastically cut the state’s family and employment support for the poorest Oregonians.

State lawmakers are considering budget cuts to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF program that would not only cut the program by about 50 percent in revenue, it would also create the shortest time limit for assistance in the nation.

Multnomah County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury

“These cuts to TANF are not going to solve the budget problems in Salem, but it will have real and harmful effects on the children in our community,” said County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury, who brought forward the resolution. “This issue is so deeply tied to the work that we do here in Multnomah County. Many of our programs, including our housing programs, work only because of the connection that we have with the state TANF dollars. And if this program is cut, these families will be at risk of hunger, homelessness and child welfare placements. All issues that directly affect the work that we do here.”

TANF specifically serves families with children with incomes less than 40 of the federal poverty level, or $7,300 per year for a family of three. The maximum a family can receive is $506 a month for a family with four or more children, with a lifetime eligibility limit set at 60 months, in line with federal policy.

The reduction under Gov. John Kitzhaber’s plan would reduce that to 18 months, the shortest known in any state in the country.

Nearly 20 percent of Oregon’s children live in poverty, the resolution notes. Oregon’s TANF program currently provides cash assistance to 30,108 families (including 54,000 children) 8,353 of whom live in Multnomah County. Without the state benefits, these families are expected to more heavily rely on already stressed county programs.

Kafoury, who along with Commissioner Judy Shiprack have served in the State Legislature, said it was not an easy decision to bring this resolution forward. She said she understands the difficulty in having to cut budgets, at the state and county levels, but that these cuts “go beyond the pale.”

Likewise, County Chair Jeff Cogen said he wouldn’t normally criticize the budget process, but that “this is such an egregious mistake that I think it’s entirely appropriate for us to do so especially because the impact is so deep in Multnomah County,” Cogen said. “Given the depth of these cuts and the pain that it will cause on the most vulnerable members of our community, people who are barely hanging on, it just seems like the wrong call.”

Since 2007, TANF’s caseload has increased nearly 60 percent – from 18,600 families to more than 30,000 today. The number of two-parent families on TANF increased 330 percent in the past two years. Approximately 95 percent of all families receiving TANF have no earnings. Meanwhile, staffing at TANF has remained the same and is now considered 40 percent below capacity by the state Department of Human Services.

The budget for TANF now working its way through the committee process also would cut the employment and skills training component of TANF, or JOBS, and would cut employment-related childcare.

State Rep. Tina Kotek, who represents Portland’s North and Northeast neighborhoods, has proposed reauthorizing funds to keep TANF functioning, along with the employment component, with less severe cuts, including setting the eligibility limit at 48 months.

Kafoury credited coverage in the media, including Street Roots, for keeping this issue before the public, and through which “we’ve been trying to mobilize citizens to let the governor and the Legislature know that these cuts are not OK.”

Kafoury urged everyone at the meeting to contact their lawmakers and the governor to preserve the TANF program.

“Don’t take it for granted that because these cuts are so awful they’re not going to go through. There’s a real chance that they will be taken.”

Lend your voice to the call to Salem to preserve the safety net for Oregon’s poorest families by preserving the basic income and employment programs through TANF.

Multnomah County Commissioners set to vote to oppose TANF cuts

Multnomah County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury is pushing forward a resolution to oppose the state’s proposed deep cuts to the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, or TANF program.

The Multnomah County Board of County Commissioners will vote on the resolution tomorrow, May 5.  Street Roots reported on the cuts to the family- support program in our April 15 edition.

Street Roots has also created an avenue for people to write lawmakers and the Governor to ask not to cut the program.

More from the announcement from Kafoury’s office:

The Governor and the Oregon Legislature are discussing cuts to the TANF program, which provides cash assistance and job training to extremely low income families. The proposed cuts include limiting lifetime eligibility for assistance to 18 months, making Oregon’s time limit the shortest in the nation and less than 1/3 of the federal time limit of 60 months. About 7,000 families, including 11,000 children, would lose their TANF benefits by June 2013 under this proposal. The proposed cuts also reduce cash benefits and job training programs that help parents find work and become self sufficient.

Oregon’s TANF program currently provides cash assistance to 30,108 families (54,000 children), 8,353 of whom live in Multnomah County. “I have no doubt that the county will see an increase in dependence on our safety net programs as a result of these cuts,” says County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury.

“Cutting TANF is not going to solve the budget problems in Salem,” says Kafoury. “It will have a real and harmful impact on the lives of children in our community. TANF helps parents work their way out of poverty and become self sufficient. Taking away parents’ ability to provide food or shelter for their children is not good policy and will be devastating for thousands of families.”

TANF only serves families with children with incomes less than 40 percent of the federal poverty level ($7,300 per year for a family of three). The current maximum monthly benefit for a family of three is $506.

“TANF assistance may make the difference between a family living in a home or on the street,” says Kafoury. “The Oregon Department of Human Services has predicted that these cuts could mean more children end up homeless or in our foster care system.”

“We cannot stand by and allow these cuts to happen. We urge Multnomah County residents to call or write to the governor and your state legislators. We can do better,” says Kafoury.

TANF proposals work through the Legislature

Advocates relieved time limit won’t change, but worry about long-term effects of cutting support services

By Amanda Waldroupe, Staff Writer

Proposed changes to the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program could salvage some provisions of the program after Gov. Kitzhaber proposed drastic cuts earlier this year.

The most recent sent of proposals avoid shortening the time limit a family could receive TANF benefits to 18 months, down from the federally recommended 60 months. Relieved Concerned advocates of low-income families and individuals say such a drastically shortened time limit would cause hundreds of families to become homeless. The proposed changes were announced during a hearing in the Legislature’s House Human Services Committee on Wednesday, April 20.

“That’s good news,” said Marc Jolin, the executive director of the homeless outreach agency JOIN, who estimates that half of JOIN’s clients receive TANF benefits.

But House Representative Tina Kotek (D-Portland), the principal author of House Bill 2049 and TANF’s legislative champion, said it is still not clear whether the program’s 60-month benefit limit will be preserved.

“This is the most modest package of statutory changes we can make,” she said. “We may have to make more, particularly around time limits.”

Continue reading

Life Support

Jamaica Imani-Nelson used TANF to get back to work and support herself. Photo by Jennifer Jansons

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and related employment services has helped thousands of people like Jamaica get back to work. Its own future looks less positive.

By Joanne Zuhl, Staff Writer

Through the clarity of her own past, Jamaica Imani-Nelson can see the future, in a sense, of thousands of Oregon families struggling to overcome poverty and unemployment.

It does not look good.

Not too long ago, Imani-Nelson was in their shoes, one of the 30,000 families — including about 55,000 dependent children — using the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and related programs to get back on their feet. TANF, as it’s known, provided a small cash allowance per month, but it also enveloped Imani-Nelson with programs to help her overcome her barriers to employment: recovering alcoholism, employment gaps, a legal history and incarceration. Because without a job, and with two small children, $488 per month from TANF was no measure of surviving.

With support, however, it worked. She competed for and received an internship with PovertyBridge. Within three months, she was hired and is now a full-time employee there.

Under Gov. John Kitzhaber’s proposed budget, an estimated 7,000 families with children will lose that kind of stability or support. Kitzhaber is proposing more than $67 million in reductions in TANF as part of an across-the-board effort to balance the budget against a $3.5 billion anticipated shortfall. It’s a penny-wise and pound-foolish cut, observers say, that will result in more families becoming homeless, more children entering foster care, and fewer people getting back in the work force. Earlier this month, hundreds of people who have or currently receive TANF, along with advocates for families and children in poverty, testified in defense of TANF before the Joint Ways and Means subcommittee in Salem, spilling out into the hallways and into waiting rooms to give their testimony. Imani-Nelson was among them.

“It is our reasonable duty to make sure that our children, our most vulnerable community members are safe, that they are taken care of, that they are not neglected,” Imani-Nelson says. “If this proposed cut is set in place, we are neglecting our reasonable duty to do just that. We will be throwing thousands of children in Multnomah County into the street.”

Continue reading

Life Support

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and related employment services has helped thousands of people like Jamaica get back to work. Its own future looks less positive.

TANF assistance helped springboard Jamaica Imani-Nelson from poverty into a career. But those opportunities could get the axe under the state's budget plans.

By Joanne Zuhl
Staff Writer

Through the clarity of her own past, Jamaica Imani-Nelson can see the future, in a sense, of thousands of Oregon families struggling to overcome poverty and unemployment.

It does not look good.

Not too long ago, Imani-Nelson was in their shoes, one of the 30,000 families — including about 55,000 dependent children — using the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and related programs to get back on their feet. TANF, as it’s known, provided a small cash allowance per month, but it also enveloped Imani-Nelson with programs to help her overcome her barriers to employment: recovering alcoholism, employment gaps, a legal history and incarceration. Because without a job, and with two small children, $488 per month from TANF was no measure of surviving.

With support, however, it worked. She competed for and received an internship with PovertyBridge. Within three months, she was hired and is now a full-time employee there.

Under Gov. John Kitzhaber’s proposed budget, an estimated 7,000 families with children will lose that kind of stability or support. Kitzhaber is proposing more than $67 million in reductions in TANF as part of an across-the-board effort to balance the budget against a $3.5 billion anticipated shortfall. It’s a penny-wise and pound-foolish cut, observers say, that will result in more families becoming homeless, more children entering foster care, and fewer people getting back in the work force.

“It is our reasonable duty to make sure that our children, our most vulnerable community members are safe, that they are taken care of, that they are not neglected,” Imani-Nelson says. “If this proposed cut is set in place, we are neglecting our reasonable duty to do just that. We will be throwing thousands of children in Multnomah County into the street.”

Jean DeMaster, executive director of Human Solutions, which houses families with children in poverty, says people are already scraping by to pay rent, and this will put them over the edge.

“TANF is a safety net, and we should be increasing TANF, not decreasing it,” DeMaster says. “That’s the travesty in this.”

Read more about what’s at stake with the planned cuts to TANF and the JOBS program in this edition of Street Roots, on sale now from Street Roots vendors.

Don’t let the State of Oregon kick families to the curb!

The Governor and the State of Oregon are on the verge of making thousands of families around the state homeless.

Why?

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, is on the verge of being turned upside down. TANF provides cash assistance to low-income families with dependent children. To qualify, families must have very few assets and little or no income. 30,000 Oregon families (effecting 54,000 children) are currently receiving TANF benefits. (Sign the letter now!)

The current maximum monthly benefit for a family of three is $506. The program requires that members of the family actively strive to be self-sufficient, whether that means they are seeking employment, obtaining job skills, in a vocational program, etc. The goal is to reduce the number of families living in poverty.

Families can receive TANF assistance for a total of 60 months (or five years). But the State of Oregon is on the verge of making the lifetime eligibility for struggling Oregon families 18-months, leaving thousands to fend for themselves. That’s simply unacceptable.

The debate concerning the state budget deficit shouldn’t be framed in dollars and cents. It should be talked about in the context of human lives.

According to Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon, more than 90 percent of families who apply for TANF have zero income. That means homelessness will be Oregon’s answer for thousands of parents and children across the state. It also means that a segment of an entire generation of Oregonians could be lost to poverty. Continue reading

Call out to save vital support for Oregon’s poorest families

More than 30,000 Oregonian families, nearly all with no income, are able to survive difficult and catastrophic economic conditions with the help of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, or TANF.

But TANF and related employment, housing and children’s programs are on the chopping block in Gov. John Kitzhaber’s  proposed budget. Kitzhaber is looking to strip $12 million to $20 million from the programs, on top of federal cuts which have already reduced the state’s TANF receipts by 16 percent. The cuts are an effort to fill the $3.5 billion shortfall in Oregon’s state budget.

Kitzhaber’s plan is to reduce the time allowed on state TANF from 60 months, or five years, to 18 months. That’s the total for life. It’s a drastic reduction that could cull between 7,000 and 8,000 low- to no-income families from basic assistance.

Tomorrow, April 5, The House Ways and Means subcommittee will hold a public hearing on the state’s budget for Children Adult & Families, which includes TANF. The hearing begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Salem Capitol: 900 Court Street. More information, including details on all of the programs at risk, is available at the Partners for a Hunger Free Portland Web site. The organization and others are leading a charge to preserve TANF funding for the thousands of families who have no other resources. If you can’t appear at the hearing in person, there is information you can send a letter through the Web site to be included in testimony.

Posted by Joanne Zuhl

Breakdown: Proposed budget cuts could drastically alter local services

By Amanda Waldroupe, Staff Writer

Homeless and low-income advocates, service providers, and policymakers were put on notice when the Republican-controlled — and Tea Party infused — House of Representatives released it’s budget last month.

The House budget plan would cut $61 billion in discretionary spending (which does not include defense spending or entitlement programs, such as Social Security). That includes $5.5 billion from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, and more than $1 billion, almost half the budget, for maintaining aging public housing units. Funding to Planned Parenthood and public broadcasting would be completely eliminated, and programs paying for substance-abuse treatment, mental-health care, low-income housing programs, education programs for the poor, and senior and disabled programs all are on the chopping block. The cuts being proposed are not snips and trims, but program-altering gouges that service providers say will fundamentally change how the safety net operates and serves vulnerable populations.

The House’s budget passed on Feb. 19, but failed to gain enough support in the Senate. However, President Barack Obama’s proposed budget, supported by Democrats and cutting $10 billion, hasn’t garnered enough support to pass in the Senate, either. Meanwhile, stop-gap budgets passed in the House continue to chip away at funding. It could be months before a settlement is reached, and everyone with a dog in the fight is bracing for significant cuts to safety-net programs.

“It will be devastating,” says Jean DeMaster, the executive director of the social service agency Human Solutions. “Huge numbers of people” will not be able to have their basic needs of food, shelter, and safety met.

“The problem is not going to show up today,” DeMaster says. But consider a child in the first grade, who becomes homeless, and may not be able to participate in an after-school program that would help him or her keep their grades up. “They don’t graduate from high school, then they don’t get jobs,” DeMaster says. “(The problem) does show up eventually.” Continue reading