Several state senators have authored a bill which seeks to begin much-needed reform to the TANF program. As highlighted in our previous newsletter, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families provides much-needed temporary financial assistance benefits for families as well as individuals which find themselves in dire financial situations. It is intended to ensure some sense of stability for those in such situations, but as we discussed, has been in need of reform for quite some time.
Senate Bill 440 aims to expand the eligibility requirements for receiving such benefits – based on the family’s income in relation to the federal poverty level. The bill would gradually increase the maximum allowable income to qualify for benefits under TANF up to 50% of the federal poverty level by July of 2021. The new threshold would be an increase of 17% providing access to benefits for many more Hoosiers in need. In addition, the bill aims to increase the payments made under the TANF program for most qualifying individuals and families, and would require these benefit amounts to continue to be monitored and adjusted according to increases in the Social Security cost of living adjustment. New payments would range from $248 monthly for most qualifying individuals and $409 monthly for families.
While the new payment amounts are not nearly enough to provide stability for qualifying people on their own, this is an encouraging move in response to awareness efforts by advocates such as yourselves to make the need for reform known. Expanding eligibility requirements is also a positive move forward for reforming this program and addressing the needs of those most impacted. To track the progress of this bill, as well as all bills moving forward in the 2019 session related to topics covered in the Campaign for Hoosier Families newsletter, see our Legislation Tracker (click HERE).
Representative Carey Hamilton recently authored House Bill 1098, a bill to cap the interest rates on payday loans. The cap on payday loans interest rates will make it so families are able to pay off the loans without having to worry about astronomical interest rates. (See the article above titled “Targeting Low Income Families & Children” for more information about the threat posed by the predatory lenders and Representative Hamilton’s bill.)
State Representative Carey Hamilton has done tremendous things during her time in office. Representative Carey Hamilton currently serves as the Democratic whip in the Indiana House of Representatives and represents Indiana House District 87 in Northeast Indiana. Representative Hamilton serves as the ranking minority member of the Financial Institutions Committee as well as serving on the Environmental Affairs and Ways and Means Committees.
Representative Hamilton has quite the impressive background before she was even elected into the Indiana House of Representatives in 2016. For nine years, Representative Hamilton served as the executive director of the Indiana Recycling Coalition. Furthermore, she worked as a nonprofit executive for over 20 years.
On behalf of the Campaign for Hoosier Families, we would like to thank Representative Hamilton for all she has done to push back against unscrupulous payday lenders. We will continue to follow and support House Bill 1098.
by Angela Weaver, Klinker-Alting Family Advocacy intern
Senator Mark Messmer recently authored Senate Bill 104, a bill to cap the interest rates on payday loans. This bill will help low income families everywhere that need help from payday loans occasionally to cover their bills and to be able to pay off the loan at lower interest rates. Senator Messmer is a state Senator for District 48 in Southern Indiana and is the Republican Majority Floor Leader. During the 2019 Session, Senator Messmer will be serving as the Chair in the Environmental Affairs Committee, as well as the the Chair in the Joint Rules Committee. He is the Ranking Member in the Rules and Legislative Procedure Committee. Senator Messmer also serves as a member in the Public Policy Committee and the Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee. Graduating from Purdue University with a Bachelors of Science in Mechanical Engineering, Senator Messmer is the owner of Messmer Mechanical, INC. He is also a member and music minister for the Holy Family Catholic Church.
by Angela Weaver, Campaign for Hoosier Families intern
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, is a program designed to provide assistance for families in desperate times of need. Operating as a federal block grant which is managed and regulated at the state level, it is intended as a resource of last resort for individuals and families who have fallen on severely hard circumstances. Established out of the effort for welfare reform in 1996, the original funding source expired at the end of the government’s 2002 fiscal year (September). Funding has since operated as a bandage for the program, consisting of a long series of short-term continuances.
Accordingly, the qualifications and benefits of the program have severely eroded in that time. As of this writing, only those families at 17% or less of the federal poverty level qualify, and even then, standard financial assistance of $288 monthly don’t even approach the lowest of rent or mortgage payments. This means that only about 16,000 of the nearly 1,000,000 Hoosiers experiencing poverty received TANF assistance last year, and most did not receive enough assistance to make a meaningful difference in their circumstances. Additionally, while TANF is intended to provide direct assistance to families in need, states are able to get somewhat creative with their appropriation of TANF grant dollars so long as there is some relation between the spending and benefits for qualifying families. As recently as 2016, this resulted in Indiana using only about 6% of the allotted $302 million for direct financial assistance. A vast majority (94%) goes to programs and case management service that help parents find jobs. Cash benefits as well as education/training benefits are necessary to help parents focus on obtaining the skills necessary to compete in an increasingly technological job market.
Change is long overdue. For more information and to learn what you can do to make a difference and help make a change, visit the Indiana Institute for Working Families website. To view click HERE.