TANF Champions Needed!

Last year, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) included a TANF Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF), that Illinois used to create over 20,000 jobs for very low-income breadwinners. Managed by Heartland Alliance, the Put Illinois to Work program put people to work in 30-hours-per-week jobs at $10 an hour. This temporary program resulted in those families receiving about three times more income than the TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) payment level for a family of three.

Illinois has also utilized the TANF emergency fund to develop summer day camps and other enhanced recreational programming for low-income children who participate in the federal summer food program. This program—known as Sprout— served 7800 children at over 150 sites throughout the state and significantly increased participation in the summer food program. As a result, more children in low-income communities had access to nutritious meals.

Equally important, the emergency fund has fulfilled its role as an economic stimulus, putting money directly into local economies.

Unless Congress votes for a one-year extension, the Put Illinois to Work program with its 20,000 jobs and the Sprout program with its hundreds of nutritious meals will end on September 30, 2010.

Continuing the TANF ECF fund apparently has strong bipartisan support. The extension has already passed the House as part of the unemployment insurance and the FMAP extension bills, but it was taken out of the Senate version for tactical reasons. Staff at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington have indicated that the small business and tax extenders bill is probably the LAST vehicle in which to include the emergency fund. This tax extenders bill will likely be considered by the Senate after the August break.

Both Illinois Senators are strong supporters of the TANF emergency fund, but right now the TANF ECF needs a champion for this $2.5 billion fund. Otherwise, the emergency fund could be overlooked in the negotiations on other aspects of the bill.

A group of TANF advocates in Illinois—including PCG staff—has requested a meeting with Senator Durbin in order to discuss this important issue. He is well known for his support of working people and nutrition programs. Therefore, we hope that he will become an enthusiastic—and much-needed—champion for the emergency fund.

Please join us in this effort by going to the Take Action page of the PCG web site.

Your call to Senator Durbin will help ensure that low-income workers keep their jobs and children in low-income communities have greater access to nutrition programs. This one-year extension is important to the Illinois economy. And, it is vitally important to the 20,000+ families that are benefiting from the Put Illinois to Work Program.

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