Rep. Kristi Noem’s TANF Accountability and Integrity Improvement Act (H.R.2959), which aims to improve the outcomes of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, was unanimously passed by the House Ways and Means Committee today.  The move sets the legislation up to be voted on by the full House of Representatives next.

“Some states are falling short of their TANF commitments – both in terms of financial support and outcomes – and still receiving the full federal block grant. It’s unfair to recipients who aren’t getting the support they need and to states, like South Dakota, that run the program as it was intended,” said Noem.  “H.R.2959 helps close the loophole.  I’m hopeful that by bringing greater accountability to the TANF program in this way, we can improve outcomes and ensure more families achieve financial independence.”

TANF is the predominant federal program used to support low-income individuals and transition them into the workforce. It requires states to ensure 50% of program recipients participate in work-related activities, such as working, searching for a job, or training for one.  If states spend more than the federal government requires, the 50% threshold can be decreased.  In extreme cases, the threshold can be reduced to 0%. 

Some states are counting third-party spending as “state spending” and driving their apparent investments to artificially high levels.  As a result, those states don’t need as many TANF recipients to be engaged in work-related activities in order to continue receiving full federal funding.  Under H.R.2959, states could no longer count spending by third parties as state spending, meaning states would need to engage more adults in work-related activities in exchange for federal benefits, as the program was originally intended.

Of note, South Dakota does not count third-party spending as state spending in order to reduce the portion of TANF recipients engaged in work-related activities.

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