58,000 Tennesseans, most of them children, will be affected by proposed changes to a major state welfare program. It’s called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. It was part of the Governor’s announcement Monday making changes to two of the state’s major welfare programs.
The Governor proposes two things for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, or TANF.
“Number one: put some programs in place that prevent fraud and crack down on abuse. And the second will adjust the monthly rate received by those folks,” says Gov. Bill Haslam.
45,000 children and 13,000 adults make up those in Tennessee receiving monthly benefits from the temporary assistance program.
The Governor proposes the monthly benefits will increase for the first time in more than twenty years. For a family three, it would go from $185 monthly to $277, but there would also extension of a 60-month cap to receive benefits.
“What this proposes to do is to extend it out, maybe an additional 6-months, just to give people that flexibility they need to become self-sufficient,” says DHS Commissioner Danielle Barnes.
The additional funds for the increases would come from the federal government.
“Just because its federal money does not mean that we should go spend it. We have a responsibility to treat it like our own money and spend it the right way,” says Gov. Haslam.
Reducing fraud and waste, the proposed legislation for next session will have several facets, from people receiving benefits in two states, to monitoring the electronic benefit cards.
“What we want to be able to is hand over a packet of information to DA with proper documentation when we do find instances of fraud,” says Barnes.
The commissioner says those pieces put a lot of integrity back in the welfare programs in Tennessee.
Reaction from the legislature’s majority of Republicans has generally been positive. The minority Democrats have been more cautious.