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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: January 7, 2022 11:25 AM
From: Senator Katie J. Muth
To: All Senate members
Subject: Increasing Financial Assistance to Families and Households in Need
In the near future I will be introducing companion legislation along with Representative Kenyatta to modernize the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program so that it provides critical financial assistance to those who qualify in order to meet basic and essential needs. As of April 2021, 51,573 of the total 68,550 people on TANF were children, and no child should live in “deep poverty” (family incomes below half of the poverty line).  This legislation would increase the monthly benefit amount to bring families up to 50 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, and therefore, out of deep poverty.

Nationally, TANF benefits have fallen substantially in value and do far less to help families escape deep poverty than in 1996 when the TANF program began. In Pennsylvania the amount of benefits vary by county. Currently, the highest amount received for a family of three is $421.00.  Only about 5 counties receive that amount; the majority of families receive around $403.00 a month for a family of three.  There have been no increases to the monthly benefit in the entire 25 years of the program,  In fact, the last increase was in 1990 under the original program, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC).  

In 1990 Pennsylvania’s benefit of $403.00 covered 43 percent of the federal poverty level, in 2020 the same benefit, which again has not had any increases, covered a mere 22 percent of the federal poverty level.  Furthermore, when accounting for inflation between 1990 and 2021, the TANF benefit has actually decreased in spending power by about 54 percent. 

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 so they can give their children a better chance of growing up healthy and the opportunity to thrive.  Increasing the monthly benefit amount to bring all TANF recipients up to 50 percent of the Federal Poverty Level would be a game changer for these families and their children’s futures.  

Please see the attached report on the 25th Anniversary of the program, TANF families’ personal experiences, and recommendations for improving the program to make it an effective benefit for helping people rise out of deep poverty.  We ask that you would join us in co-sponsoring this important legislation to help Pennsylvania's most vulnerable families.  

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Introduced as SB1014