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Coalition Letter to Congress: TANF

July 13, 2004

Dear Senator/Representative:

As organizations in the faith community, we call on Members of Congress to complete action on a reauthorization of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).  This important legislation was designed to lift families out of poverty, enable individuals to gain skills needed to work and earn enough to meet basic human needs, and improve child well-being.  While we are thankful that Congress has again passed a three-month extension of current law to fund TANF through September 30, 2004, we are extremely disappointed that Congress has not yet passed a long-term reauthorization to strengthen the program so families can move out of poverty.

One of the purposes for enacting TANF legislation in 1996 was to allow states to design their own programs in ways most suited to their residents.  By repeatedly failing to reauthorize TANF since its authorization expired nearly two years ago, Congress is denying the states the certainty of funding and clarity of program direction that they need to operate their programs most effectively.  These necessary securities would accompany a full five-year reauthorization.

We have long advocated for reauthorization to strengthen TANF by including:

* adequate funding for child care;
* the restoration of benefits for immigrants;
* expansion of education and training opportunities;
* maintenance of the current work requirement, particularly as it applies to parents of pre-school children;
* flexibility for states to extend time limits for families facing severe barriers to employment; and
* enabling families to receive more of the funds collected through child support enforcement.

Although the Senate Finance Committee’s PRIDE bill, including the Senate-passed amendment on child care funding, is an improvement over the House-passed TANF reauthorization bill (H.R. 4), each falls far short of providing the conditions that will help TANF recipients overcome poverty through family-supporting employment.  We urge you to examine the many evaluations of TANF’s first six years that are now available, to listen to the voices and experiences of low-income families and the service providers who work with them, and to produce a five-year reauthorization of TANF that will truly lift these families out of poverty.

Sincerely yours,

American Baptist Churches USA
American Friends Service Committee
Bread for the World
Call to Renewal
Central Conference of American Rabbis
Church of the Brethren Witness/Washington Office
Church Women United
Equal Partners in Faith
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Friends Committee on National Legislation
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Mennonite Central Committee U.S., Washington Office
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Washington Office
Union for Reform Judaism
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries
United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society
Women of Reform Judaism

FOR INFORMATION, contact Carolynn Race, Presbyterian Church (USA), 202-543-1126.

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