MEDICARE IMPROVEMENTS FOR PATIENTS AND PROVIDERS ACT OF 2008--MOTION TO PROCEED -- (Senate - June 26, 2008)
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Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, today I wish to express my disappointment in the straight extension of the current temporary assistance for needy families, TANF, supplemental grant program, which is included in the Medicare bill. I oppose the extension of this program without updating the 10-year-old statistics that qualify States for participation in the program, and without the appropriate reauthorization and consideration of changes necessary to ensure that this assistance is being afforded to the States that need it most.
The TANF Supplemental Grant program was created in 1996 to provide additional assistance to States that spend less money per poor person on TANF services. Seventeen States qualified for additional TANF benefits under this program based on certain statistics collected at or around that time. More than 10 years later, these States are still receiving supplemental grant benefits based on the same 10-year-old statistics. A straight extension of this program does not award this assistance based on current conditions in States.
There is no doubt that our nation is facing challenging economic times. Rising gas prices, rising unemployment States, the housing crisis and rising food prices all place a particularly significant burden on less fortunate families. Some state TANF programs are seeing increased caseload pressure.
South Carolina can only afford to spend 29 percent of the national average per poor child on TANF services compared to some States that spend well over the national average. To make matters worse, South Carolina did not and has not qualified for the supplemental grant program due to an old statistic that has since changed.
Senator ROCKEFELLER and I introduced a proposal to allow States that spend below the national average on TANF services to participate in the supplemental grant program. Using updated statistics, our legislation would ensure that the dollars spent on this program are appropriately directed to States that need it most so that they can help struggling families get on their feet and back to work.
Unfortunately, the Senate Finance Committee chose to quickly pass this extension as a part of a larger bill in order to avoid the discussion of reauthorization and changes necessary to update the supplemental grant program. I am disappointed some States, like South Carolina, and families that might otherwise receive this additional assistance will not have the opportunity to benefit from a mere update of the current program, or from the consideration of Senator ROCKEFELLER's and my proposal.
I am committed to ensuring that Federal dollars spent on welfare services and benefits are spent efficiently. I am disappointed that the reauthorization of the supplemental grant program did not receive the attention it deserves, and I am hopeful that this can be addressed in the future.
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