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Public Statements

Preserving the Welfare Work Requirement and TANF Extension Act of 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. DANNY K. DAVIS of Illinois. Mr. Speaker, rarely have I been a fan of the concept that one size fits all. Therefore, I find it necessary to not be in favor of this legislation. However, I am strongly in favor of TANF. TANF is a greatly needed program. It provides temporary assistance to needy families, and we need to try to make those programs as effective as we possibly can. TANF is designed to help people who may have become parents too soon. Their jobs may have gone out of business. They may have dropped out of school, don't have much in the way of formal education and training, and may even have a prison record.

In order to provide the most effective help, their State may need the flexibility to design and implement the best program they possibly can. They may even have clients who have three or four children and no husband or no wife. They may need babysitting help and cannot find it. They may need a waiver. I agree with the administration's position; and if a State determines that they can do a better job with the waiver, and Health and Human Services agrees, then they ought to be able to get one.

I've been told, and I believe, that if you give a man or woman a fish, they can eat for a day; but you teach them how to fish effectively, and they can eat for a lifetime. I disapprove of this restriction on this bill.

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Mr. DANNY K. DAVIS of Illinois. Mr. Speaker, I must express my profound surprise by the Republican effort to undermine state flexibility to strengthen work outcomes for people who receive TANF. In contrast to prior Republican support for such TANF waivers, in contrast to longstanding Republican advocacy for greater state flexibility, and in contrast to the reality that the TANF waivers would actually accelerate job placements and dramatically improve work outcomes, the current Republican rhetoric jettisons past support for state flexibility to improve TANF outcomes and disingenuously charges the Administration with gutting welfare reform. It is in states' best interests to improve the work outcomes of their citizens, which is why Republican and Democratic governors have asked for the type of flexibility provided by the Administration's waiver.

Under current rules, a state can meet its work requirement even if no recipient finds a job. In contrast, approved demonstration waivers explicitly would focus on improving employment outcomes. Under current rules, states spend very little of their TANF funds on work activities and substantial resources monitoring participation in activities. In contrast, approved demonstration waivers would help states make more effective and efficient use of limited resources. Under current rules, people are discouraged from getting a high school diploma or GED, even though they're more likely to find good jobs with such education. In contrast, approved demonstration waivers would allow states to focus on building a better skilled workforce.

Under current rules, people working in subsidized jobs don't count toward the state's work rate. In contrast, Illinois boasted one of the most successful subsidized employment programs in the nation while using TANF Emergency Funds. The program directly placed almost 30,000 unemployed and underemployed adults in jobs that paid approximately $10 per hour, putting almost $9 million dollars into the pockets of hard working Illinoisans and into the economy. Almost 5000 employers in Illinois benefited.

Why Republicans would oppose innovative programs to help the unemployed get solid jobs is simply puzzling. Rather than advancing political theatre, the Republicans should be working with Democrats to replace the across-the-board spending cuts, strengthen the middle class, create jobs, expand our economy, and responsibly bring down the deficit. It is these proactive steps at governing that my constituents seek.

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