Preserving the Welfare Work Requirement and Tanf Extension Act of 2013by Representative Lloyd Doggett
Posted on 2013-03-13
DOGGETT. I thank the gentleman.
Mr. Speaker, I believe in the value of work. That's one of the reasons that I voted for the 1996 welfare reform law, because I wanted to see more people move from welfare to work. Our laws need to encourage job opportunities, but in the effort that we have before us [[Page H1376]] today, it seems to me that this legislation as proposed is less malevolent and more irrelevant to those poor people.
Because of the way the TANF program is currently structured, only about 1 percent of working-aged adults across America who are poor are participating in TANF work activities at any particular time. So, this afternoon, for 99 percent of the poor Americans who are not participating in TANF work activities, this bill is not all that significant. These are people who are struggling to get up the economic ladder at about the first rung. What happens and whether there are waivers or there are not waivers, I think they basically just feel that we've waved good-bye to their plight and are not responding to it in a constructive way.
It also is important to remember that we have a higher proportion of our population living near the bottom of the economic ladder today than when welfare reform was first enacted. In 2011, about 46 million American neighbors lived in poverty. About 350,000 of those lived in the San Antonio area. Amidst this poverty, amidst this growing inequality in resources in our country, we have the lowest level of poor children receiving direct cash assistance from TANF in almost 50 years. In my home State of Texas, one in every 20 poor children receives TANF assistance directly, and when children get assistance, they don't get very much.
As we look at the whole question of extending the TANF law, what we've had are only short-term extensions, not long-term reform. And each of these has provided some convenient political opportunities to reenforce the old welfare Cadillac stereotypes that just blame the poor for being poor. A previous extension we had out here focused on whether we would prohibit poor people from withdrawing any of their TANF benefits at a strip club or at a casino. It's not an unreasonable restriction, but it's hardly going to the core issue of how to get more Americans out of poverty and into the workplace, and I don't think today's bill helps in that regard either.
I believe that poverty should be viewed as a major national problem that needs a resolution by our working together and not viewed as a weapon to just score political points out of the last Presidential campaign.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman has expired.