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Sign On Letter
Dear Mayor Bowser and the DC Council,

We are writing to express our strong support for the “Preferred Option” recommendation of the recently completed report of the Working Group to Inform a TANF Hardship Extension Policy for the District of Columbia. We represent local organizations, and most of us provide services to DC residents in need. We know that our organizations cannot replace the critical financial support and services that TANF provides to the District’s most vulnerable families. DC’s TANF program should ensure that our children can have their most basic needs met despite the economic hardships their parents face. Protecting these families is not only the right thing to do, it also helps children go to school ready to learn and improves their chances of future success.

We support the Working Group’s “Preferred Option,” because it would guarantee that low-income parents have resources to meet their children’s needs, while also giving the District government the tools needed to help parents engage in activities to improve their family’s situation.

The District’s current TANF time limit threatens to eliminate assistance to 5,800 vulnerable families, including 10,000 children, in October 2017. Unlike the vast majority of states, District families are not eligible to receive a time limit extension even if they are facing hardships such as domestic violence or caring for a child with a disability, or even if they are doing everything expected of them to prepare for work. Given that most DC TANF recipients do not receive housing assistance, the loss of benefits could greatly exacerbate the District’s current family homelessness crisis. For many families who are doubled up with family or friends, losing TANF benefits would mean they would have nothing to contribute to their host family, putting their housing situation at risk.

We know that even with the best TANF services, some families face barriers that get in the way of finding or holding a job. Equally important, DC’s economy is not working well for low-income residents. Wages have fallen for residents with less than a college degree, and unemployment remains high years after the end of the Great Recession.

The “preferred option” of DC’s recent TANF working group makes important strides to address the problems created by rigid time limits. Under this option, most of a family’s TANF benefit would be designated for meeting their children’s needs and would not be subject to a time limit. The remaining portion, designated the parent’s share, also would not be subject to a time limit but could be reduced if a parent is not meeting program requirements. This option ensures that TANF will always be available for its intended purposes – ensuring the well-being of children – while also including provisions to ensure that parents are engaging in activities that will improve their family’s condition.

This is our chance to strengthen TANF so DC families and children facing the greatest odds have the support they need to get on a path to greater independence.
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