From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ELCA Supports Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

From News News <NEWS@ELCA.ORG>
Date Wed, 26 Jun 2002 16:11:25 -0500


June 26, 2002


     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- A June 11 letter to finance committee members of
the U.S. Senate listed 14 points the Evangelical Lutheran Church in
America (ELCA) supports in legislation Congress is considering now that
would reauthorize Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block
grants.  The letter also raised a few related issues the Lutheran Office
for Governmental Affairs (LOGA) said "should be addressed."
     LOGA is the ELCA's federal public policy advocacy office in
Washington, D.C.  The Rev. Russell O. Siler, LOGA's director, and Kay A.
Bengston, assistant director for (domestic) public policy advocacy,
signed the letter.
     The letter cited results of a survey of ELCA state advocacy
directors, Lutheran service agency directors, pastors and congregational
leaders located in the District of Columbia and 35 states.  The comments
in the letter were based on information gathered in the survey, as well
as on ELCA policies and the church's "work with poor and vulnerable
populations," it said.
     "When asked to identify the 'most immediate' or 'most pressing'
needs among current or recent welfare recipients, 89 percent said good
quality, affordable child care.   Other immediate and pressing needs
identified included accessible, flexible transportation, education and
job skills training, affordable and transitional housing, and
transitional health care and networks of support," said the letter.
     The Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996
provided states with TANF block grants to end the dependence of needy
parents on government benefits by promoting job preparation, work and
marriage, and to encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent
     The survey asked what changes in the act would make TANF programs
more effective.  Seventy-four percent of the responses answered:
"support for education and job training programs."
     Items LOGA favored in TANF reauthorization legislation included
"increasing access to education and training for welfare parents by
allowing vocational education to count as a work activity for 24
months," maintaining the current 30-hour work requirement and deeming
"mothers with children under 6 who are engaged in 20 hours of approved
work activity as meeting the full work requirement," and strengthening
families by "eliminating the separate two-parent family participation
     LOGA commended the legislation for "rewarding states for getting
people into higher-paying jobs and providing work support services" and
for "allowing states to pass-through child support directly to families
currently or formerly on TANF without repaying the Federal government
its share of the collections it allows to be passed through."  The
letter applauded the legislation for supporting teen pregnancy
prevention programs and transitional medical assistance.
     While praising the legislation for restoring the Social Services
Block Grant to its full funding level of $2.8 billion and for increasing
funding for child care, LOGA called for an increase in the TANF block
grant to account for inflation.  The letter said, if funding is kept at
its current level, "the TANF block grant will have lost approximately 22
percent of its original value by 2007."  It supported a funding increase
of $11.25 billion over five years.
     LOGA asked Congress to eliminate penalties on people with low-wage
jobs.  "When a TANF recipient is working but earns so little in wages
that she/he qualifies for additional cash subsidies, those subsidies
should not count against the lifetime limit," said the letter.
     The letter named "positive" Tennessee policies that keep TANF
recipients informed of sanctions, exemptions and requirements.  It asked
Congress to make states describe ways they intend to implement similar
     S.2052 is the U.S. Senate version of the Personal Responsibility
and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act Amendments of 2002.  The U.S.
House of Representatives passed similar legislation (H.R. 4737) in May.
-- -- --
     The Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs maintains information
at on the Web.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG

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