Families who rely on the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program may soon have an easier time accessing this vital cash benefit.
House Bill 2441, sponsored by Rep. Debra Entenman, D-Kent, passed the House 57-41 on Friday. This bill would ease restrictions on access to TANF and remove a policy that punished children when their parents fell out of compliance with the program, according to a Washington House Democrats news release.
TANF has strict restrictions on its use including a five-year lifetime limit on receiving benefits and strict job training requirements. However, prior to 2008 families could receive extensions to the five-year time limit if they could show a hardship. After the financial crisis in 2008, the ability to gain an extension was severely limited. Families were given a shorter grace period for falling out of compliance, orientation requirements were increased, and the Legislature made it possible to permanently disqualify a family. These changes significantly reduced the number of TANF recipients. African American, Indigenous and Hispanic families were disproportionately disqualified from the program.
“The bill I introduced allows for more hardship exemptions to the five-year limit and ensures that that if an adult is sanctioned for non-compliance, the children in the family will not lose assistance,” Entenman said in the news release. “This program was designed to provide families with a path to self-sufficiency. Taking away assistance from vulnerable children does nothing to help lift that family out of poverty.”
HB 2441 gives parents a four-month grace period to come into compliance with the program and reduces a family’s grant by 40% after that. The children’s portion of the TANF grant cannot be terminated because of the parent’s inability to comply.
This legislation will now go to the Senate for consideration.