Congress has extended the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program through the end of fiscal year 2012 (September 30, 2012). TANF’s authorization expired October 1, 2011, and Congress approved two short-term extensions before enacting as part of the Middle-Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act (PL 112-96, signed February 22, 2012) this seven-month extension. TANF will need to be extended or reauthorized yet again this year.
The Act leaves intact the authority for tribes to administer the TANF program. Currently there are 66 tribal grantees, representing 299 Tribes and Alaska Native villages, administering $181 million in federal TANF funds. Funding remains level for this capped entitlement program ($16.5 billion annually), with tribal funds being subtracted from the state’s allocation when a tribe opts to administer the program directly. Also reauthorized are Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood grants and the Child Care program’s mandatory funding ($2.9 billion in FY 2012). The Act does not contain a TANF Emergency Fund which had been established in the Recovery Act and which a number of tribes were able to access. The TANF Contingency Fund is not addressed in this Act as it was provided FY 2012 appropriations in another statute, PL 111-242.
The Act requires the Department of Health and Human Services, in consultation with an interagency work group established by the Office of Management and Budget, and “considering State and tribal perspectives,” to propose rules within 12 months which would improve the standardization of data exchanges in the TANF program. Within 24 months, the Secretary, again in consultation with an interagency workgroup and “considering State and tribal perspectives,” is to finalize regulations to designate data exchange standards to govern TANF data reporting.
The Act requires states to develop and implement policies that will block the use of TANF benefits that are on an electronic benefit card from being used in a liquor store, casino or gaming establishment, or strip club. The term “electronic benefit transfer transaction” is defined to mean “the use of a credit or debit card service, automated teller machine, point-of-sale terminal, or access to an online system for the withdrawal of funds or the processing of a payment for merchandise or a service.” This requirement applies to state, but not tribal, TANF programs. Some tribal TANF programs utilize electronic benefit cards, including utilizing the state’s electronic benefit system, and thus persons being served by those tribal systems could be affected. Apparently there are some reports of inappropriate use of TANF benefits which led Congress to include this provision.
Please let us know if we may provide additional information regarding the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program or other matters in this Memorandum.