Monday, April 24, 2017

A student considers the TANF program

A social welfare system provides assistance to needy individuals and families.  The types and amount of welfare available to individuals and families vary depending on the country, state or region.  Examples of social welfare in the United States include Medicare, Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, food benefits, and Section 8 housing assistance.  

The 1996 welfare reform enacted by the Clinton Administration ended Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) as an entitlement program and replaced the program with a block grant, called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF).  TANF is a federally-funded program run by states that provides limited cash assistance to low-income parents and their children.  To be eligible for TANF, individuals must participate in work activity within two years of receiving assistance, and families are limited to a total of five years’ assistance in a lifetime.  If an individual refuses work requirements, states have the option to reduce or shut off assistance to that family.  Another important feature to TANF concerns minors.  Minors who are parents cannot receive TANF assistance unless they are living at home with their parents or in another adult supervised setting.  Minors must attend high school or an alternative educational program as soon as their child is twelve weeks old. 

TANF is funded not only by the federal government, but also by the states.  The federal government gives states a fixed block grant each year.  States that meet specified criteria may also qualify for federal contingency funds.  In 2013, states reported spending about $15 billion of nonfederal money on services intended to meet TANF’s goals. The Federal government spends about the same amount, with about $15.8 billion expected for TANF grants to the states from the Department of Health and Human Services for 2017.

TANF comes with multiple positives and negatives to the program.  Positives to the program include:
  1. TANF has helped provide people with food, medical assistance, and other services.  
  2. The program helps individuals stay motivated and teaches them to meet their needs.  
Negatives to the program include: 
  1. Some people abuse it and do not tell the truth about their status.  
  2. Since it is a cash assistance program, individuals who receive the cash can spend it on anything.  Although the money is supposed to go to necessary items such as food, clothing, and rent, some individuals are spending their cash on alcohol, tobacco, and drugs.  
  3. There are also people who do not want to be part of the program because they are embarrassed or for other personal reasons. 
Today, there are many different flaws in the TANF program.  TANF only exists on a short-term basis leaving those who depended on it hopeless.  The continuing growth of the human population is making TANF become ineffective because of the insufficient budget.  Another flaw within the program is that while states can set their own time limit policies, they cannot provide cash assistance from federal TANF funds for longer than 60 months to a family that includes an adult recipient.  This leaves individuals without a source of income. 

In conclusion, there are many positives and negatives to TANF today.  TANF over the years has helped low income families stay on their feet, pay for food, and put a roof over families’ heads.  While TANF aims to assist in the prevention of poverty, it only serves to keep its individuals on the brink of poverty.  

Here is another list of benefits and harms of the TANF program:

1) It is a cash benefit.
This is beneficial because it allows recipients to have some autonomy and dignity, as they may manage their own money.  It also maximizes their freedom, because it allows them to use the money for whatever is their most pressing need.
This can be harmful, because some TANF recipients have very poor financial literacy, and they may waste or squander their cash benefit.  Some who suffer from addictions will use their benefits on pursuing their addictions.

2) It offers only very little money.
This is beneficial because the small benefit levels do not attract people to become poor so that they qualify for benefits.  It also is so low that even when people receive TANF, they need more money, and so they will look for work to earn more money, and that will help them become independent and get off of welfare.
This is harmful because even poor persons should live with dignity and have their basic needs met.  During the periods when people need TANF, they need to focus on their parenting, or focus on building their skills, or focus on finding a good job.  If the benefit level is so low that they must hustle around and try to make ends meet, they will not have the energy or time to devote themselves to the tasks that are more important.  Also, the low benefit levels may make it impossible for people to have phones or cars, and so they may miss opportunities to take jobs or study.

3) There are time limits.  If you have not found a job in a certain amount of time, you benefits can be cut.  After five years in of receiving benefits in your life, you may never receive any more benefits.
This is beneficial because it makes it impossible for people to become dependent over a long period of time.  Since people can lose their benefits if they don’t find employment, they will be more willing to enter the labor force and work for an employer. This should make poor people more subservient and diligent in their work, since they will fear being fired, especially if they have no benefits left to gain when they are out of work.
This is harmful because some people may have chronic health problems or mental health issues or other life circumstances that put them in a situation where they need assistance for more than five years, or may take them a long time to find a reasonable employment opportunity.  The time limits will cut off support for the children as well as the parents, so that children with parents who have lost their benefits may suffer. 

4) It can be humiliating and complicated to apply for the TANF benefit, and the regular monitoring of your situation by a caseworker can be an invasion of your responsibility.
This can be beneficial because fewer people will apply for benefits.  Also, people who receive benefits can be closely monitored and coached or encouraged by their caseworkers, so that they will be less able to cheat, and more able to work toward their plans for self-sufficiency.
This can be harmful because the stigma associated with receiving TANF may push families who could use the cash benefit away from gaining it, and they will have even more financial trouble while going through a spell of economic hardship because they have not gained access to the resources that are supposed to help them. The caseworkers may treat TANF recipients with contempt or might try to enforce their own values on the recipients, possibly giving bad advice or generally making clients miserable.

5) the program is generally too small, offers benefits that are inadequate, and is too harsh in its sanctions and benefit limits.
This can be beneficial because it reduces government spending and punishes the poor for whatever behaviors brought them to the point where they have become poor.

This is harmful because it feeds the American hatred of poor people, and punishes people for life circumstances that are usually not their fault, which is unfair.

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