TANF EMERGENCY RESPONSE AND RECOVERY ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - September 08, 2005)
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Mr. LARSON of Connecticut. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 3672, the TANF Emergency Response and Recovery Act. This bill is a modest first step towards assisting the states so severely effected by Hurricane Katrina and the many poor and underserved Americans who rely on the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.
This bill will extend TANF in a number of ways that will aid those in need along the Gulf Coast and those states who have taken in the evacuees from this disaster. It will extend TANF funding for the entire Nation for the next 3 months and allow States to receive advance payments. Additionally, it will increase TANF funding for Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama by 20 percent. It will also provide flexibility to neighboring states for reporting requirements and in using TANF contingency funds and unspent prior year TANF funding for assisting disaster evacuees. Finally, it waives work requirements and time limits for hurricane victims in need of short-term assistance.
While this legislation is a good first step, its focus is short-sighted and fails to consider the months and years that will be required to return the Gulf Coast to normalcy. It fails to address the need for child care assistance for evacuees trying to find some form of employment to support their families. There are likely to be thousands of children in need of foster care or family support services and this bill fails to address that need. It also does nothing for the roughly 11,000 jobless workers in the Gulf Coast region who are within 6 weeks of exhausting their regular unemployment benefits.
The haunting images we have seen on the news should be a wake up call to Congress that millions of Americans are still stuck in a cycle of poverty. Just last week, the Census Bureau released data that showed income for the typical American family fell by $1,670, 5.4 million more people slipped into poverty, and 6 million more joined the ranks of the uninsured. These are the issues that should be at the top of our priority list in Congress.
We are taking a positive step today to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina in the next few months. However, we need to think long term about the cost and efforts needed to lift up the people in the Gulf Coast. I hope to never see again the images of people too poor or too sick to evacuate their homes in times of an emergency. Nor do I wish to see a response so slow or inept that thousands lived in squalor for days. We should never forget those images and that memory should spur us to improve the TANF program to ensure that no American ever feels forgotten by the United States Government and the people it represents.
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