Press Release Health and Social Programs Inequality Poverty United States

Marking TANF’s 26th Anniversary with a List of Its Failures

August 18, 2022

Contact: KL Conner, 202-281-4159Mail_Outline

Washington — CEPR publishes today, in the form of a listicle by CEPR’s Shawn Fremstad, an annual reminder of the colossal failure that is TANF. Monday, August 22nd, marks 26 years since Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) was converted to a program of block grants for states called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). 

Back in 1996, block granting was a favorite tool conservatives used to give fiscal incentives to states to help as few economically insecure families as possible.

“The 1996 TANF was conservative to the core,” is how it was described in 2011 by Fremstad, who referred to the block grant as “NewtAid,” after the legislation’s champion, then House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Sanctimonious conservatives inserted so-called “marriage promotion” and abstinence-only education to hijack public funds to punish or reward states for policing a narrow, often hypocritical, set of moral absolutes.  

TANF breached the pinnacle of dereliction when it failed to help impoverished families during the pandemic-driven recession. Particularly grievous was that, among 13 assistance programs, TANF was among the weakest at reducing child poverty during 2020.

Call it NewtAid, Clinton-Gingrich welfare reform, or TANF, Fremstad says it is “a poorly designed, failed program with misguided purposes that needs to be repealed and replaced.”

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