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Letter To Senator Harry Reid, Majority Leader, U.S. Senate and Senator Max Baucus, Chairman, Senate Finance Committee

Casey Calls for Extension of Jobs Program for Parents in Need

U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today called for the extension of an emergency program that has already created more than 100,000 jobs for low-income parents in states across the country. Senator Casey joined 21 senators who sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) urging for inclusion of an extension of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Fund as part of legislation to extend expiring unemployment insurance and COBRA benefits for those hardest hit by the recession.

"As states continue to struggle with the recession, we believe the extension and expansion of the TANF Emergency Fund would create jobs in the near term and stimulate the economy," the senators wrote. "If Congress does not act to extend the Emergency Fund, states will begin to ramp down their subsidized jobs programs beginning in March and thousands of jobs will be lost this year."

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) provided $5 billion for the TANF Emergency Fund which states have used to create subsidized jobs for at least 100,000 low-income parents. Currently, twenty-one states and the District of Columbia use this fund to create jobs.

Pennsylvania is eligible for $359.7 million of the $5 billion in funds provided by ARRA. To this date, only a fraction of that money has been used. Officials at the Pennsylvania Departments of Public Welfare and Labor & Industry are currently working on a proposal to obtain more of the state's share of the funding.

Senators Arlen Specter (D-PA), John Kerry (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ron Wyden (R-OR), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tom Udall (NM), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Carl Levin (D-MI), Ted Kaufman (D-DE), Chris Dodd (D-CT), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) joined Senator Casey in the letter to Senate Majority Leader Reid and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Baucus.

The full text of the letter is below.

February 23, 2010

Dear Majority Leader Reid and Chairman Baucus:

As you work to assemble a legislative package that supports states in their efforts to create jobs and help those who remain unemployed, we ask that you include an extension of the TANF Emergency Fund and an increase in the maximum allotment to states. Many states have used this fund to create subsidized jobs programs for very low-income parents. If it is not extended, states will begin to dismantle their plans to create these jobs this year. We strongly urge you to include this provision in the legislation to be taken up this month to extend the expiring unemployment insurance (UI) and COBRA benefits for those hardest hit by the recession.
We appreciate each of your successful efforts and determination to provide states with fiscal relief during this economic downturn. Thanks to your leadership, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) created a new Emergency Fund under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant. Congress provided $5 billion for the Emergency Fund in ARRA. States are using this fund to provide subsidized jobs to at least 100,000 low-income parents. States are also using this fund to provide basic cash assistance and short-term benefits to increasing numbers of poor families with children as unemployment remains high and more workers exhaust their unemployment benefits. The Emergency Fund is set to expire on September 30, 2010 and some states are now considering eliminating their employment programs and cutting basic cash assistance for very poor families beginning on July 1, 2010.
We are pleased that the jobs and recovery portion of the President's FY 2011 budget request proposes to extend and expand the TANF Emergency Fund for one year until September 30, 2011. It would also reimburse states for 100 percent of the costs associated with providing subsidized jobs and allow states to use the fund to expand their work support programs beyond four months. This will encourage more states to create and expand subsidized jobs programs. And finally, the proposal would provide states with a new maximum allocation for FY 2011 so that states can continue to use the fund if they are close to exhausting their maximum allotment.

As states continue to struggle with the recession, we believe the extension and expansion of the TANF Emergency Fund would create jobs in the near term and stimulate the economy. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have received approval to receive TANF Emergency Funds for new or expanded subsidized employment programs. And even more states are waiting for approval or are in the process of designing programs.

If Congress does not act to extend the Emergency Fund, states will begin to ramp down their subsidized jobs programs beginning in March and thousands of jobs will be lost this year. Furthermore, states are already considering cutting cash assistance provided through the Emergency Fund which stimulates the economy because the poor families receiving it spend virtually every cent in their local economy immediately to meet basic needs.

For all of these reasons, we urge you to extend and expand the TANF Emergency Fund in the upcoming legislation to extend the UI and COBRA benefits. Thank you for your important work to extend unemployment insurance, COBRA assistance, and expiring Medicare provisions. We look forward to working with you to ensure that state governments have the necessary resources to assist poor families with employment programs and other basic needs.

Thank you in advance for your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

Senator John Kerry
Senator Arlen Specter
Senator Bob Casey
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
Senator Ron Wyden
Senator Chuck Schumer
Senator Patrick Leahy
Senator Jeff Merkley
Senator Debbie Stabenow
Senator Dianne Feinstein
Senator Sherrod Brown
Senator Tom Udall
Senator Bernie Sanders
Senator Carl Levin
Senator Ted Kaufman
Senator Chris Dodd
Senator Barbara Mikulski
Senator Herb Kohl
Senator Jack Reed
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse
Senator Kay Hagan
Senator Ben Cardin


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