Resolution on the Reauthorization of
Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and Related Programs
Approved November 15, 2001
National Council of Churches
Annual General Assembly, Oakland, Calif.
WHEREAS since its formation in 1950, the National Council of Churches has advocated for programs providing assistance and opportunities for low-income people; and all member communions of the NCC have congregations that provide relevant ministries and assistance;
WHEREAS many congregations have created or participated in institutional programs or organized services either through denominational or ecumenical organizations or through community organizations; and programs and assistance have been directed both to church members and to those in need in communities;
WHEREAS in 2002, the Congress of the United States will take up its responsibility for reauthorizing three programs that are crucial to low-income people: Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), the Food Stamp Program (FSP), and the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG);
WHEREAS the National Council of Churches has declared that the purpose of these and other governmental programs designed to assist low-income people should be the reduction and elimination of poverty, not merely the reduction of caseloads,
BE IT RESOLVED THAT the NCC commits itself to advocate with those impacted by these programs for improvement of these programs and systems according to the following principles.
1. The TANF and Food Stamps programs should receive increased funding in order to serve all of those in need and should include the improvements suggested in this platform. The Child Care and Development Block Grant especially needs a substantial increase in funds to serve families adequately.
2. The primary goal of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families should be the reduction of poverty. The goal of each of the three programs (TANF, Food Stamps, and Child Care) should be to provide assistance to low-income families, enabling them to have decent lives, including: an adequate nutritious diet; safe and affordable housing; access to affordable health care; developmentally-oriented child care; and the opportunity to contribute to society through employment or in other ways. For the good of individuals, families and society, those able to be employed should be empowered to obtain and hold jobs that meet the needs of their households.
3. These programs should be available to everyone in the United States based solely on need.
4. Government agencies should be required to inform people actively of their eligibility for programs of assistance and assure that they can apply for and receive all benefits for which they are eligible, with benefits gradually phased out as family income increases. Simplification of the application process is essential, with a single application serving for all programs. Intake programs should be sufficiently funded and staffed with well-trained workers to serve clients efficiently and at hours that meet the needs of working households.
5. Every community should coordinate services and develop integrated plans for empowering workers and potential workers, as well as families for which employment is not an option, so that families can make their best contribution to the common good.
This would involve providing assistance with: income; nutritious food; child care; health care; housing; utilities; drug, alcohol, mental health and domestic violence services; education and training for employment; rehabilitation and support services for those with disabilities or learning limitations or related health needs; transportation; and help with job placement and retention. Special attention should be given to reintegrating former prisoners into contributing roles in the economy and society.
6. The current system of time limits on participation in TANF should be replaced by a program in which there is an individualized plan for each participant, with periodic reviews of progress toward reaching employment and training goals, when they are part of an appropriate plan for involved adults. Termination of benefits should be applied only to those who refuse to participate. Adults caring for elderly or disabled relatives, including children with special needs, should be exempt from work requirements. Enrollment in post-secondary education should be counted as participation in meeting work requirements. No family should be worse off as a result of moving from welfare to work than it was while receiving assistance.