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Reform Jewish Leader Calls on Congress to Pass Clean Reauthorization of TANF Program
In response the Congressional consideration of legislation providing short-term reauthorization for the expiring Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement.

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Saperstein: It is shameful that Congress has been unable to pass a long-term reauthorization of TANF in the two years since it initially expired-and that the latest short-term reauthorization seeks to add untested, new measures to the program at the expense of funding for proven, poverty-reduction methods.

WASHINGTON, September 27, 2004 - In response to this week's Congressional consideration of legislation providing short-term reauthorization for the expiring Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

    As a critical component of our nation's social safety net, the expiring Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program provides indispensable aid to those Americans seeking a way out of poverty and into self sufficiency. It is shameful that Congress has been unable to pass a long-term reauthorization of TANF in the two years since it initially expired-and that the latest short-term reauthorization seeks to add untested, new measures to the program at the expense of funding for proven, poverty-reduction methods.

    Short-term extensions of TANF ill-serve those who rely on the program to make ends meet. Not knowing whether or not assistance will be available in six month's time fails to provide the stability needed to move from welfare to self-sufficiency. Secondly, the short term reauthorizations have meant that states administering TANF have been unable to do the long-term economic planning required for the successful administration of any public program.

    The expected vote on yet another six-month reauthorization of TANF is cause enough for disappointment in our Congressional leadership. Yet even more concerning is that legislation to extend TANF, S. 2830, sponsored by Senators Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Evan Bayh (D-IN), includes $300 million for marriage promotion and responsible fatherhood programs. Such programs fail to meet the real needs of struggling families. While statistics do indicate that children raised in two-parent homes have a better chance to escape poverty than those raised by single-parents, marriage promotion funding advocates confuse the symptoms of poverty with its causes. Many marriage promotion programs also use strong religious messages and themes - a concern of those who believe in the separation of church and state. At the same time, S. 2830 does nothing to increase funding for programs that have been proven effective at educating and training welfare recipients for higher-paying jobs and helping single, working mothers obtain quality child care-both of which lead to stable family environments.

    It is regrettable that the political climate in Congress prevents a long-term reauthorization of TANF and increased funding for proven programs leading to independence. We therefore urge Congress to pass a clean extension of the current program, such as H.R. 5149 proposed by Rep. Wally Herger (D-CA).

    This past weekend, as we observed Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, we were reminded of the admonishment of Isaiah: "No, this is the fast that I desire. . .to share your bread with the hungry, and take the wretched poor into your home; when you see the naked , to clothe him." As we begin the new year 5765, let us take Isaiah's message to heart and work to pass a TANF bill that meets the real needs of America's struggling families.

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis.



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