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House of Representatives
Session of 2013 - 2014 Regular Session


Posted: May 21, 2014 04:02 PM
From: Representative Michelle F. Brownlee
To: All House members
Subject: Increasing the Temporary Assistance to Needy Family (TANF) Earned Income Disregard
In the near future, I will be introducing legislation to increase the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) Earned Income Disregard from 50 percent to 75 percent. This bill is part of the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health, a comprehensive proposal to address the real health issues affecting women in the Commonwealth today. It is my sincere hope you will join me in this important effort.

As the name implies, the TANF program was designed as temporary financial assistance to help needy families achieve self-sufficiency. Through TANF, the federal government provides states with block grants to distribute funds to families to help pay for food, shelter, utilities, and expenses other than medical care. States are afforded wide discretion in allocating these TANF dollars, however, including determining the level of benefits provided. Recipients are generally precluded from collecting federal TANF dollars after five years of receiving these benefits.

A TANF earned income disregard is utilized by states to encourage individuals to work by acknowledging that working families have unique expenses that take up a large percentage of their take home pay. In other words, states use these disregards to essentially ignore a portion of a family’s employment income and provide a larger TANF benefit. Currently, the Public Welfare Code of 1967 sets an earned income disregard of 50 percent for current recipients of TANF funds only. However, even with this disregard, families in Pennsylvania often find themselves in roughly the same spot financially after they start working as they were before they started working, taking into account taxes, transportation, clothing, and child care co-pays.

My legislation will accomplish two main goals – increase the earned income disregard from 50 percent to 75 percent and apply this disregard to TANF applicants as well as recipients. This important change will help level the playing field and treat all low-income families similar. My legislation will allow more low-wage workers to receive a partial TANF grant at a time thousands across this state are still reeling from the effects of the economic downturn. By granting these individuals assistance now, it will help them on a path to sustainability for themselves and their families in the future. I invite all members to co-sponsor this crucial piece of legislation. If you have questions, please contact me at (717) 787-3480.

Introduced as HB2431