TANF Turns 20 This Year: What Has Been the Impact in Arizona?

| September 5, 2016

Children’s Action Alliance:

This month, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program turns 20 years old. When TANF was signed into law in 1996, many said its success (or failure) would depend on states, because the new federal program left many of the decisions on how to allocate the TANF Block Grant funds up to the states.

TANF charts.jpg

A key goal of TANF is to help disadvantaged parents succeed in the labor market through job training programs.  It is therefore astonishing that Arizona spends only 1.5 percent of its TANF Block Grant funds on job training activities compared with 6.5 percent nationally, and the national number is considered low.  In contrast, Arizona spends 46 percent of our TANF Block Grant funds on child welfare services that protect children from abuse and neglect compared to 7 percent nationally.

While Arizona’s overburdened child welfare system certainly needs the resources, redirecting federal funds to pay for child welfare services that are typically paid for by state funds can do more harm than good. Evidence shows assisting poor families with children move out of poverty and into employment will reduce the chances of those children ending up in the child welfare system. If Arizona would take more of the responsibility for funding child welfare services, it would allow TANF Block Grant funds to be used for their core purpose of providing low-income parents with the skills they need to be successful in today’s workforce.

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Category: Child Welfare, General

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