Reform Jewish Movement Commends Senate Finance Committee's Work on TANF Reauthorization, But Child Care Remains Dangerously Underfunded
Pelavin: As the debate moves to the Senate floor, we urge our policy makers to recognize that low-income families are in need, and that the federal government has the responsibility to judge righteously and to support both TANF and child care reauthorization legislation that truly combats poverty in America and empowers families to move from poverty to self-sufficiency.
Contact: Julie Silverman or Rachel Burrows (202) 387-2800
WASHINGTON, June 27, 2002 -- In response to yesterday's Senate Finance Committee passage of TANF reauthorization legislation, Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:
The Reform Jewish Movement applauds the important steps taken by the Senate Finance Committee to reauthorize welfare reform and significantly improve the disappointing welfare reauthorization bill passed out of the House. The Work, Opportunity, and Responsibility for Kids (WORK) Act of 2002, which passed out of the Senate Finance Committee yesterday, is substantially better than the punitive legislation passed in the House. This tri-partisan legislation maintains the current 30-hour work week for welfare recipients, gives states the option to restore federal TANF benefits and Medicaid assistance to legal immigrants, rewards states who move parents into higher-paying jobs, allows more education and training to count as work activity, and permits up to 6 months of activities to remove barriers to employment including substance abuse treatment, English as a second language (ESL), and mental health services.
The legislation, however, severely short-changes millions of children in low-income working families. The tri-partisan bill includes only a $5.5 billion increase in mandatory funds over five years for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). Currently only one in seven eligible children receives child care assistance, and thousands of children are stranded on waiting lists. The proposed increase is not nearly enough to provide for the current child care needs of our nation. Only with adequate funding can we ensure that families can work and children can enter school ready to succeed.
"The Reform Jewish Movement supports legislation that, as an expressed goal, will reduce poverty in America. The overarching goals set out for TANF in 1996 were admirable, but the specific policies and regulations used to achieve these goals often fell far short of the mark. TANF's success has often been quantified by the decreasing size of the welfare rolls. Although the total number of people on welfare has certainly been reduced, TANF has not adequately alleviated the depth or breadth of poverty in the United States. Congress has both the opportunity and the obligation to remedy the program's failings. We must measure TANF's success in terms of quality of life, not quantity of welfare recipients.
Jewish tradition teaches us to "speak up, judge righteously, champion the poor and the needy" (Proverbs 31:19). As the debate moves to the Senate floor, we urge our policy makers to recognize that low-income families are in need, and that the federal government has the responsibility to judge righteously and to support both TANF and child care reauthorization legislation that truly combats poverty in America and empowers families to move from poverty to self-sufficiency.