Today Congresswoman Gwen Moore (WI-4) sent a letter to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius applauding the Administration's recent executive order that will allow states to apply for waivers that could grant them some flexibility in implementing their Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) programs.
The letter reads as follows:
July 19, 2012
Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20201
Dear Secretary Sebelius,
I would like to express my deep appreciation of the recent decision by the Department of Health and Human Services to allow states to apply for waivers that could grant them some flexibility in implementing their Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) programs. Your new guidance will bolster the law and allow states to tailor their TANF programs to meet their specific needs, while making a renewed commitment to move people off welfare and into good jobs. I know that governors from both political parties, all across the nation, have requested flexibility in implementing welfare reform time and time again, and I applaud you for heeding their call. I also know that welfare recipients have been ill-served by the program, and your action on their behalf is greatly appreciated.
I was once a welfare recipient and am very aware of the successes and failures of this critical safety net. I have been outspoken regarding my concerns about the TANF program, which, since its passage in 1996, has shifted the focus of welfare to a series of rules and restrictions, rather than a focus on effective job preparation and placement, though that was one of its purported goals. TANF has never taken into consideration education and training to the extent they are necessary in helping recipients gain meaningful employment. I am pleased that your waiver program could allow states to allow for education and training opportunities, which could truly expand possibilities for beneficiaries, as well as for our labor market overall. Your commitment to cutting red tape and urging states to improve their performance on helping place people into jobs, rather than just keeping them enrolled in restricted job-search activities, is laudable. I recognize that you are providing limited waiver opportunities that do not alter the employment requirements of TANF; your proposal will simply encourage states to draft plans that will quantifiably increase the number of welfare beneficiaries who find and keep a job.
Given the lack of Congressional dedication to improving the TANF program through the legislative process, I am grateful that HHS chose to take steps in the right direction to ensure that TANF is an effective program. It is my sincere hope that the state of Wisconsin will apply for a TANF waiver so that the state can truly build a strong, skilled workforce. Once again, thank you for taking this action that will help fix a fundamentally broken program. I am grateful for your leadership on this issue and look forward to working together to maximize the potential of TANF to serve vulnerable populations.
Member of Congress