This week, Congresswoman Gwen Moore (WI-4) introduced the RISE Out of Poverty Act, her signature legislation to overhaul our nation’s only cash assistance program for mothers and children.
In 1996, Congress replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) – a program that eliminated entitlements, imposed work requirements, and limited education and training. These barriers severely restricted the reach of cash assistance. Today, TANF continues to fail struggling families who are unable to meet basic needs.
“I’ll never forget spring of 1996 when Governor Tommy Thompson decided to end welfare as we know it,” said Congresswoman Moore. “I stood on the floor with 100 amendments filibustering the bill until the early hours of the morning. Months later, when this proposal was adopted by the US Congress and signed into law by a Democratic president, I knew I would spend the rest of my career fighting to save the safety net for women and children.
“43 million Americans currently live in poverty, including millions in extreme poverty. My bill would make sweeping reforms to TANF to ensure it can actually work for the populations it’s supposed to help. As a former welfare recipient who rose up out of poverty with the help of cash assistance, higher education, and food stamps, I understand how critical it is for Congress to fix this broken program. Our nation is only as strong as it’s most vulnerable populations. Instead of criminalizing and demonizing the poor, we must help lift them up, so they too can escape poverty.”
Key provisions of the RISE Act will:
- Index the block grant for both inflation and child population growth in states since 1996.
- Replace the current contingency fund with one based on the Emergency Contingency Fund enacted in the Recovery Act which helped to create over 260,000 jobs.
- Stop the clock during a recession: RISE would make the 60-month time limit inapplicable during periods of high unemployment and require states to disregard months in which the state had unemployment rates of 6.5% or higher from being counted toward the 60-month limits.
- Guarantee child care for TANF work-eligible recipients.
- Require that States adopt standards and procedures to address domestic and sexual violence among TANF recipients.
- Eliminate full family sanctions and lifetime sanctions and establish a Pre- and Post-Sanction Review Process requiring states to continuously work with families that are subject to sanction or have already been sanctioned.
- Stipulate that the number one goal of TANF is child poverty reduction.
Please find a full copy of the legislation.