The Washington Legislature passed legislation to aid low-income families Wednesday.
House Bill 2441, sponsored by Rep. Debra Entenman, D-Kent, eases restrictions on access to the Workfirst/Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.
TANF has strict restrictions on its use including a five-year lifetime limit on receiving benefits and job training requirements. After the financial crisis in 2008, families were given a shorter grace period for falling out of compliance and the Legislature made it possible to sanction a full family if the parent was not in compliance.
“This program was designed to provide families with a path to self-sufficiency. Taking that assistance away due to uninvestigated non-compliance does nothing to lift the family out of poverty,” Entenman said. “If we want to support our economy and pull people out of homelessness, we have to do everything we can lift those on the brink out of poverty. TANF is the last, best hope for those in poverty and we want to make sure that we are giving those parents a chance.”
Under current law, an entire family is terminated from the program if the parent does not come into compliance after two months. HB 2441 gives parents a two-month grace period to come into compliance with the program, reducing a family’s grant by 40% after that. This ensures that even if a parent is non-compliant with work requirements, they can continue to feed their children. The TANF grant can be the difference between a child being fed or not. The grant will be terminated only after twelve months of non-compliance.
HB 2441 passed the Senate on March 5 and the House concurred with the Senate’s amendments on March 11. It will now go to the governor for his signature.