TANF reforms could be part of 2023 legislative session
The Legislative Health and Human Services Committee heard proposals from the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty to reform the Temporary Relief for Needy Families (TANF) program.
TANF, or NM Works because it’s recognized in New Mexico, gives households in disaster with non permanent monetary help for issues like hire, clothes, utilities, and objects not lined by SNAP EBT advantages (previously referred to as meals stamps), like diapers .
“The income inequality that existed before COVID is a problem that exists here: The high rates of hunger, poverty and unemployment that we have (the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty) assume they will continue for centuries of colonialism and economic policies that historically fueled businesses and other industries, not necessarily the people who lived here,” said Teague Gonzalez, director of the public benefits team at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “What we are finding out is what the social cost of this inequality is, why child poverty is so persistent here, even after the child is grown. Every kid in New Mexico and in this country should have an opportunity.”
When low-income households obtain a monetary enhance, the youngsters in these households profit essentially the most all through their lives, Gonzalez mentioned.
“If low-income youngsters present households with further revenue, there’ll be long-term results,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez presented a list of issues and possible reforms for the TANF program at the Nov. 29 interim meeting of the Legislative Health and Human Services Committee.
These reforms include ending penalties that affect children’s share of the TANF benefit for an alleged rule violation by a parent, restoring work requirement exceptions, increasing the cash grant amount, providing flexibility for families trying to to meet program requirements and not use the cessation of state withholding from child support for family and child support payments as a benefit calculation.
One of the penalties removes a portion of the TANF amount if a parent fails to personally submit a payslip to the field office of their local Human Services Department – Income Support Department at the scheduled time.
For some TANF recipients, transportation is a problem and they may sometimes not be able to get the required documentation to the DHS-ISD office in a timely manner.
This counts as a sanction and can be fixed within 30 days once a year. Other states are less strict, Gonzalez said.
“The common TANF household solely attends TANF for 33 months out of 60 months allowed, however a median of 30 p.c of households within the TANF caseload are sanctioned and the youngsters obtain lowered or no cash for months,” Gonzalez said. “Mothers who leave TANF due to sanctions are less likely to enter the workforce and, when employed, have lower incomes than other families leaving welfare.”
As for job requirements, some TANF clients have employment barriers that were addressed during Susana Martinez’s tenure.
“In 2011, the HSD stopped exempting New Mexicans with vital employment boundaries from unpaid work hours, even when they’re disabled, scuffling with home violence, or have a new child,” Gonzalez said. “The loss of all revenue throughout these instances of disaster, when households want essentially the most monetary assist, creates additional destabilization and will increase the probability that households might want to return to TANF sooner and longer sooner or later.”
The maximum amount a family can receive is $447 per month, although the average amount for a New Mexico TANF household receives $338 per month.
TANF benefit levels are flat at 1996 levels, which “represents a 31 p.c fall in worth adjusted for inflation,” Gonzalez said. “The average cash grant for a family receiving TANF is $338 per month, or 18 percent of the federal poverty line for a family of three. Raising the cash allowance to at least 50 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines would ensure very low-income families are able to meet their children’s basic needs.”
The most common family dynamic in the TANF program is one adult and two children, Gonzalez said.
The average cash allowance has not changed since 1996, although there was 2.95 percent inflation in 1996 versus 7.75 percent inflation in 2022, according to the CPI Inflation Calculator.
Due to New Mexico’s strict TANF implementation, only about 40 percent of eligible New Mexico families qualify for the program.
The fourth reform called for is more flexibility for New Mexico’s TANF budgets to address suspected violations, as other states have done.
“New Mexico ought to be a part of different states in offering further and ongoing alternatives for households to display compliance with program guidelines and obtain advantages,” Gonlzalez said.
These states include Maine, Illinois and Washington, DC
Currently, New Mexico collects and retains all but $100-$200 child support payments to a TANF household, depending on household size.
“New Mexico ought to observe Colorado’s lead in passing all baby assist to those households and excluding baby assist from the calculation of month-to-month money advantages,” Gonzalez said.
The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, the New Mexico Child Advocacy Center, and Crossroads for Women created a video, available on YouTube, titled “The Trouble with TANF” that includes interviews with TANF clients and their families who share their stories, including their experiences with TANF.
The women interviewed speak of the humiliation of waiting for hours for their hour-long in-person initial consultation with their newborn in tow, or having to contact their children’s fathers, who responded poorly to the calls, according to the mothers interviewed in the film.
Funding for TANF comes from a fixed federal grant that can be used in any program that helps families living at or below the federal poverty line.
“Federal funding for the TANF block grant has been set at $16.5 billion annually since 1996; As a result, its real value has fallen by 40 percent due to inflation. State allocations were established in 1996 based on historical spending and have not been changed to reflect demographic changes or population growth,” according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
The 1996 change was made during President Bill Clinton’s administration to give the state more control over how the program is administered.
Of the grant amount New Mexico receives, 62 percent goes to other programs that benefit TANF households, such as
That could change with New Mexico’s recent constitutional amendment, which allocates a portion of the 1.25 percent of the five-year average year-end market value of money in the Land Grant Permanent Fund to early childhood education. The remainder of the additional distribution goes to public education.
This change means the New Mexico Legislature may be willing to allocate more funding to the TANF cash program, Gonzalez said.
She also said some legislation to reform TANF could be introduced at the 2023 New Mexico Legislative Session, which begins Jan. 17.