Voices’ Blog

Strong Financial Futures Foster Resiliency in Kids

Posted:  -  By: Chlo'e Edwards

Children are particularly vulnerable when parents are unable to meet the basic needs of their family. Families with access to strong financial futures and self-sufficiency are able to increase positive child health outcomes and decrease adverse childhood experiences. Virginia has more to do to help families achieve economic security.

 Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) in Virginia is a cash assistance program that helps low-income families reach self-sustaining independence. The Virginia Department of Social Services’ initiatives include (1) eliminate the TANF Family Cap, (2) Adjust TANF Standards of Need, (3) implement a Benefit Cliff Pilot, (4) prevent evictions and address short-term emergent needs of low-income families, and (5) Summer EBT.

Eliminate the TANF Family Cap

Over the years, several states have repealed family caps on public assistance. The Code of Virginia §63.2-604 imposes a family cap on any children born more than ten months after parents begin receiving TANF. If a child is born during that time period, the family will not receive an increase in TANF support. Research shows that restricting the income of impoverished families has a negative impact on children, such as developmental delays. Eliminating the family cap will ensure that all children receive the TANF benefit; this will create opportunities to improve child health and outcomes. The Department requests $698,676 to eliminate the family cap.

Adjust TANF Standards of Need

Standards of Need are used to determine eligibility and assess the amount of assistance an applicant can receive. Changes to the process and an increase in the TANF payment can promote employment. Since 1985, the cost of living in Virginia has increased by 137.5 percent, but TANF payments have only increased by 30.6 percent. The following changes are proposed to address the Standards of Need: a 10 percent increase in benefits; a 20 percent increase in the income threshold; and a 20 percent increase in income disregards. The total request to increase the TANF standards of need is $39,011,876.

Implement a Benefit Cliff Pilot

An increase in household income changes the eligibility status of families receiving public assistance. A family’s overall income inadvertently decreases because they risk a reduction or termination of public help, which could amount to an overall loss of benefits that supersede the increase in income. This decreases the motivation for families to seek opportunities for income outside of the public assistance. This is referred to as a resource “cliff.” The Benefit Cliff Pilot seeks to fill this gap through TANF assistance. The pilot will increase an understanding of how the structure of eligibility affects the motivation of recipients to seek higher paying jobs. Each case will examine the impact on household resources and the amount of assistance needed to fill the resource gap. An evaluator will examine the results of the pilot. The Department requests $2,000,000 of TANF federal funds.

Prevent Evictions and Address Short-Term Emergent Needs of Low-Income Families

Unforeseen expenses and circumstances impact independence. There are two types of TANF payments that address crises: TANF-Emergency Assistance provides up to $500 for fires or natural disasters and Diversionary Assistance provides up to four months of benefits to resolve a short-term crisis and prevents the need for ongoing assistance. The proposal increases the maximum amount of TANF Emergency Assistance from $500 to $1,500 and increases the Diversionary Assistance payment from an average of $1,080 to $1,500. It also provides more flexibility around the circumstances for use of these options. The Department requests $146,375.

Summer EBT

There are 38 localities that have only one or no sites that provide meals to children during the summer. Children need access to nutritious food year-round. Fifty-one thousand children meet the criteria to receive free or reduced school lunch. The total request to increase Summer EBT is $2,720,349 in TANF federal funds.

Voices supports policies that offer access to TANF without unnecessary and unfounded restrictions on eligibility. We are pleased to see the proposals included in this package.

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