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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: December 5, 2014 04:45 PM
From: Senator Judith L. Schwank
To: All Senate members
Subject: TANF Earned-Income Disregard

I will soon re-introduce SB 1447, legislation raising the earned-income disregard for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) benefits to 75 percent of household earned income, from 50 percent. Nationally, about 85 percent of TANF households are headed by women, who also account for about two-thirds of workers paid minimum-wage.

The earned-income disregard is that share of a worker's employment income excluded from calculating benefit eligibility. It is used to reduce disincentives to workforce participation. The present 50-percent disregard is a disincentive because recipients' earnings at this level are often consumed by the new costs they typically must incur to hold a job (e.g. taxes, transportation, clothing, and child care) and by resulting reductions in TANF as well as SNAP (food stamp) benefits.

TANF is a federally funded, state-administered program for food, shelter, utility, and non-medical expenses. States have wide discretion in determining and awarding benefits, and as a general rule recipients cannot receive TANF for more than five years during their lifetime. The value of the current top award in Pennsylvania has been cut in half since it was set in 1990, and today it is less than a third of the federal guideline for poverty.

This bill will apply to both TANF applicants and current recipients, to help more low-wage workers to get on the path to financial self-sustainability. It is part of the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health, a comprehensive proposal by the Women's Health Caucus to address real health issues affecting Pennsylvania women and their families. Co-sponsors during the last session included Senators Washington, Fontana, Williams, Costa, Hughes, Yudichak, Brewster, Farnese and Kitchen.

Introduced as SB203