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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: February 23, 2017 04:50 PM
From: Senator Judith L. Schwank
To: All Senate members
Subject: TANF Disregard
I shortly will re-introduce legislation to raise the share of household earnings that applicants for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) benefits may keep without counting it as income for eligibility determination purposes. Applicants now may discount up to 50 percent of their household income for eligibility determinaitions. My proposal would increase that to 75 percent.

The discounted income, also known as the "earned-income disregard," is a tool designed to reduce disincentives to workforce participation. Nationally, about 85 percent of TANF households are headed by women, who also account for about two-thirds of minimum-wage earners. At the present 50-percent level, the income disregard is unable to overcome the disincentive to work caused by the costs of holding a job (e.g. taxes, transportation, clothing, and child care) and resulting reductions in TANF and SNAP (food stamp) benefits. At 75 percent, the disregard would offset those negatives so that there is a fiscal incentive to work.

TANF is state administered, but federally funded for food, shelter, utility, and non-medical expenses. States have wide discretion in determining and awarding benefits, but recipients are generally limited to receive TANF for no more than five years in their lifetimes. Today, the highest TANF award in Pennsylvania is worth less than half what it was when it was set in 1990, and it is less than a third of the federal guideline for poverty.

Co-sponsors during the 2016-2016 session included Senators Brewster, Fontana, Hughes, Yudichak, Williams, Costa and Farnese. I hope you will support this effort to remove impediments to work.