Letter to the editor

The editor,

The New York Times Company

620 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY 10018.

Dear Mr. Dean,


It is with great concern that I write to you about Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program. TANF was established to advance financial assistance to pregnant women. It also assists families with more than one dependent child. Karger & Stoesz (2018) noted that the financial aid provided by the program pays a variety of bills but majorly caters for basic needs such as utilities, food, and shelter except medical expenses. For one to qualify for the assistance, the program management requires that applicants meet particular demands. They should be pregnant or be living with a minor under the age of 19. Children of age 18 are expected to be in high school entirely. Also, the pregnant woman and the husband may qualify without having to be with child. Applicants are required to be citizens of the United States and must not violate any of the State’s requirements. This service also serves only people living within Illinois. In the process of awarding the assistance, applicants are often told to establish a self-sufficiency plan and stick to it.

Heilman (2018) discussed four primary goals of TANF. First is to provide financial assistance to needy families to allow the provision of child care in the comfort of their homes or the presence of relatives. Secondly, it purposes to reduce dependency especially by needy parents who depend on the government. It prepares beneficiaries for employment positions and marriage. Thirdly, they seek the limitation of pregnancies that occur outside of wedlock. Such [pregnancies put the mothers in stressful situations with futures full of uncertainties. The program also promotes the establishment and maintenance of nuclear families made up of two parents. According to a research by Caputo (2018), single parenthood is closely associated to adverse outcomes in the child development process. These goals majorly aim at achieving the primary role which is financial assistance children and families in addition to work preparation. They authorize the utilization of funds for welfare programs set in place to benefit needy families and children hailing from backgrounds characterized by socioeconomic challenges.

Currently, TANF has two significant problems. The first problem is that the program has not lived up to its expectations especially regarding the need to eradicate poverty from the family level. Various states spend less than expected in the work programs of the organization. Center on budget and policy (2018) reports a worrying finding that only 12 percent of TANF was spent supporting the needy and maintaining the work activities. The employment outcomes of the parents coming out of the program have been difficult to measure using the WPR system put in place by the organization. Actually, a report filled by related programs such as welfare-to-work revealed that many parents are increasingly becoming poor. The benefits that TANF extends to the program beneficiaries are often too low to eradicate poverty. They only serve as a temporary fix to the basic needs that the families have lacked for some time.  The number of families receiving the benefits has also been low; an indicator that the program is yet to reach the high number of families it intended to reach. Secondly, the program is not sensitive to the needs of family members who suffer from various impairments. A high number of families have left TANF not to go to work but because they were rolled out after failing to meet certain expectations, therefore, falling short of the state’s fundamental requirements. While rolling them out, the states do not consider the fact that their impairments can negatively affect their ability to meet set expectations. Some of those rolled out have included substance abusers, lowly literate individuals, and victims of domestic violence, physical disabilities and transportation complexities among others.

Some policymakers have praised the program for fulfilling its objectives and considered it a perfect model that can be used in the reformation of related programs. However, this is not the case as TANF needs reforms itself. There have been declining numbers of people receiving assistance when the reverse should be the case since more families are increasingly experiencing the inability to provide basic needs for members.  In 1996, for instance, the number of families that benefited from the funds for every 100 families in need rested at 68. Ten years later, in 2016, the number dropped to 23.

I would like to propose a solution for the above problems because the program has failed the people it ought to provide for. To fix the problems, the program should consider reauthorization which would allow Congress to re-establish various aspects of the program so that it is put at a position where many more families are able to receive the help they desire. Currently, reauthorization is temporary and has always been extended from the year 2010. Secondly, the program should consider helping out the neediest families first. In their discussing on welfare programs, Myles & Quadagno (2001) suggested that the poorest should be a priority since they lack the most basic of human needs. There are many low-income families left out because the program has not yet reached out to the expected numbers. Lastly, Congress should remove work participation rates and put in programs such as access measures so that families needing assistance are helped and with employment-based performance measures. Thank you for your audience.