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Federal Lawmakers To Propose TANF Reforms

The members of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee talk about the Mississippi welfare misuse and misspending a systematic problem in the TANF program.

March 19, 2024

The members of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee this month introduced seven pieces of legislation to reform and reauthorize the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program for the first time since 2005.

The major goal cited by lawmakers while filing the bills was to ensure that the dollars serve low-income Americans along with encouraging a drive towards gainful employment and protecting hard-earned tax dollars from waste, fraud, and abuse.

The main concern of federal lawmakers is to refocus the temporary Assistance for needy families program on its original mission which is to help low-income families move from being dependent on the government to realizing their full potential via work.

The House Ways and Means Committee revealed that the Mississippi case reveals a systematic problem in the TANF program that is lacking basic financial safeguards which in turn makes room for fraud and rob resources from the families in poverty.

Congressman Jason Smith (R), Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, announced legislation in response to revelations from news reports and committee oversight that the American welfare system has misused taxpayer dollars on unnecessary projects and excessive administrative costs.

The reforms introduced by the federal lawmakers aim to reauthorize the TANF program for two years and put guardrails in place to ensure that dollars only focus on removing barriers to work, reducing dependency, and improving the capacity of growing Americans to realize their full potential.

The reforms will make the state more accountable than it used to be while providing the assistance Americans require to move from welfare to work.

Congressman Smith said, “These reforms put forward by Ways and Means Committee members hold states accountable for actually using TANF funds to help Americans in need transition from depending on a government check to thriving on a paycheck. Hard-working taxpayers should be able to expect that their hard-earned tax dollars will be spent appropriately, not lost to waste, fraud, and abuse. Raising standards on states and forcing more transparency into the system is long overdue. TANF has not been authorized in almost twenty years. Congress must reform and reauthorize this important program to better serve Americans in need and protect taxpayers.”

The state auditor of Mississippi Shad White welcomed the news of reforming the legislation and said, “I applaud these members for these proposed federal reforms. It’s time to get smart about how the nation spends welfare money and put in more safeguards to prevent another scheme like what we saw here,” White said in a statement. “We need to stop paying money to people who won’t work and instead use TANF to reward people who go from not working to getting a job.”

The proposed legislation includes:

  • TANF eligibility is to be restricted to those below 200% of the federal poverty line to ensure funds reach needy Americans.
  • The states will be given the flexibility to transfer TANF to workforce activities that connect workers with in-demand jobs.
  • TANF dollars will now be more directed towards work activities that connect low-income individuals to meaningful employment.
  • The bill requires that states should treat TANF as a supplement and not as a substitute.
    The bill has also asked the Department of Health and Human Services to track improper payments in TANF.

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Corder Frank. “With Mississippi as a backdrop, federal lawmakers propose TANF reforms”. Magnolia Tribune, March 19, 2024,
With Mississippi as a backdrop, federal lawmakers propose TANF reforms – Magnolia Tribune

Last Updated: September 20, 2021