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House of Representatives
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: August 20, 2021 10:36 AM
From: Representative Malcolm Kenyatta
To: All House members
Subject: Increasing Financial Assistance to Families and Households in Need
The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program is a lifeline for many children and their families to meet their most basic and essential needs, first implemented in 1996. Unfortunately, TANF benefits have not increased with inflation, eroding the value of such benefits in helping families escape deep poverty. In Pennsylvania, the amount of benefits is not uniform across our state’s counties, and, on average, families of three receive about $403 a month. Since this amount has not increased in the entire 25 years of the program, Pennsylvania would need to more than double the amount to adjust for inflation and provide families with the same value of support as a quarter century ago. 
In order to provide critical financial assistance to qualified households in need, I will be introducing companion legislation to Senator Katie Muth’s bill to modernize the TANF program. Going forward, to ensure that TANF benefits continue to be effective at providing financial stability, this legislation would require that the benefits undergo an annual cost of living increase to keep pace with inflation. In 1990, Pennsylvania’s benefit of $403 covered 43% of the federal poverty level, but in 2020 the same benefit covered a mere 22%. Furthermore, when accounting for inflation in this time period, the TANF benefit has actually decreased in spending power by more than 50%. This legislation would increase the monthly benefit amount to bring families up to 50% of the federal poverty level and out of deep poverty, a serious life improving measure for these families and their children’s futures.
As of April 2021, a total of 68,550 adults and children in Pennsylvania were receiving TANF cash assistance. No one, especially children, should live in deep poverty. Studies show the conditions of poverty have long-term effects on the health and well-being of children that often condemn them to being trapped and unable to determine the course of their own lives. TANF should provide meaningful assistance that maintains financial stability for families to give their children a better chance of growing up healthy and the opportunity to thrive.  
Please join us in co-sponsoring this important legislation to help Pennsylvania's most vulnerable families and children.  

Introduced as HB2015