In Session: Long-term Enhancements for Temporary Assistance are Overdue

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

This morning, the Senate Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services will consider two bills to improve Virginia’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, also known as TANF.  One of those bills, SB 802, would pave the way for periodic increases in benefit amounts.  TANF provides cash assistance for Virginia’s poorest families with children.  However, benefit levels have not kept pace with inflation.  At most, a family of three participating in TANF receives only $389 per month; that’s merely 23.2 percent of the Federal Poverty Level – far less than what a family requires to meet its basic needs. SB 802 would provide additional resources for Virginia’s poorest families with children and better help them achieve the goal of self-sufficiency.  So please join VPLC in supporting this measure.

In addition, lend your support to SB 819 – the other TANF bill scheduled to be heard this morning.  SB 819 would lift Virginia’s lifetime ban on TANF benefits for individuals with a felony conviction for drug possession.  VPLC supports this measure for the following reasons:

  • The bill is designed to help individuals who have demonstrated their commitment to re-building their lives and to caring for their families.  In order to receive benefits, a person must first fulfill their court obligations, complete a substance abuse treatment program (or be actively engaged in one), and agree to participate in drug screenings periodically.
  • SB 819 seeks to provide only a modest amount of cash assistance to some of Virginia’s most financially vulnerable families.  At most, a family of three impacted by the drug felony ban receives $323 in monthly cash assistance.  This bill would increase that amount by $66.
  • Virginia has lifted a similar drug-felony ban on SNAP benefits, so SB 819  would achieve some degree of parity across public benefits programs.  Parity is essential to helping families access the full menu of transitional assistance required to achieve self-sufficiency.
  • The TANF program has no similar ban for other types of felony conviction.

Just yesterday, HB 1569, a companion bill, was reported from the House Committee on Health, Welfare, and Institutions.  Hopefully, SB 819 will enjoy a similar fate.

Stay tuned for more!

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