Revised August 28, 2002

KEY ISSUES IN THE HOUSE TANF REAUTHORIZATION BILL
by Sharon Parrott, Shawn Fremstad and (1)

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Overview

During the first week of May, the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Education and the Workforce Committee approved companion TANF reauthorization legislation. These two bills have been combined into a single piece of legislation that was passed by the House on May 16, 2002. The House-passed bill (H.R. 4737) raises a number of issues and concerns, including the following:

Mandating increased use of full-family sanctions is troubling. Such a policy ignores the substantial research showing that such sanctions disproportionately fall on families with serious "barriers to employment" that impede a parent's ability to comply with requirements. Such recipients often are willing to comply with program requirements but have not been given the help to do so. In addition, a growing body of cautionary research suggests that sanctions may increase children's risk for food insecurity — a commonly used measure of hunger risk — and involvement in the child welfare system.

The effect of language that was added shortly before final House passage of the bill to address concerns raised about the superwaiver by members of the House Appropriations Committee is much more limited than some Members of Congress and journalists appear to have thought. This language — which would prohibit waivers of "funding restrictions" — would do little to limit the extent to which the authorization statutes governing low-income programs could be overridden. Furthermore, new restrictions on shifting funds from one federal budget account to another would not prohibit Executive Branch officials from granting state requests to shift federal funds to other uses; superwaivers could be used to accomplish such shifts since the Executive Branch could allow funds in a given program to be used in ways not authorized under federal law, without formally transferring the funds to a different budget account.

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End Note:

1. The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) provided valuable assistance with this analysis. CLASP and the Center have prepared a set of side-by-side analyses of TANF reauthorization legislation, which can be found at /archiveSite/tanfseries.htm#Side or on the CLASP web site at www.clasp.org.