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RELEASE: DC Takes Step Forward for Children in Poverty by Reforming TANF

May 30, 2017

DC Council Takes Tremendous Step Forward for Children Living in Extreme Poverty in the District by Reforming Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program

Today’s TANF reform vote is a saving grace for the more than 10,000 children who rely on the program. Children’s Law Center’s reaches more than 5,000 children and their families each year, and sees first-hand how important TANF benefits are to children living in poverty.

“This is the biggest victory for DC’s children living in poverty in years,” said Judith Sandalow, executive director of the Children’s Law Center. “We firmly believe that TANF is vital to providing children with stability, and we are thrilled to see this critical program reformed by DC Council. This means the poorest children in our city will be more likely to have what most people take for granted, such as diapers, medicine for a fever and enough to eat.”

Children’s Law Center recognizes Committee on Human Services Chairperson Brianne Nadeau for her tireless work throughout her time on the Council to ensure that the thousands of children in families receiving TANF are not removed from the program due to a lifetime limit on benefits.

The TANF program allows parents and caregivers to meet their children’s most basic needs, even under immense financial pressure. For these families, TANF is a lifeline – a way to ensure that, even during the most difficult of circumstances, there are at least some resources in the home available for the essential day-to-day care of children.

“We thank Mayor Muriel Bowser for convening a working group to inform DC’s TANF policy and for investing in TANF in her FY18 budget,” said Sharra Greer, policy director for Children’s Law Center. “We commend the DC Council – and in particular Councilmember Brianne Nadeau – for leading the way for this reform.”

A recent survey of TANF customers reported a variety of reasons for needing assistance, including:​

  • Escaping an unsafe relationship
  • Needing help getting an education or job training
  • Losing job or could not find a job to support their family
  • Losing housing
  • Increasing childcare costs 

Two out of five TANF customers who were employed worked more than 30 hours per week but half of them make less than $500 every two weeks. The median hourly wage of TANF customers is far below the DC living wage level. TANF helps stabilize family incomes and allows families the support they need to get back on their feet.

The same survey shared reported TANF customers benefits, such as:

  • The ability to pay bills,
  • Stable housing,
  • Stable transportation,
  • Stable childcare,
  • Stable job


Children’s Law Center is proud to be part of the TANF is a Lifeline Coalition, and thanks every coalition member who worked so hard and effectively to achieve this victory. CLC would also like to extend a warm thank you to our partner, the Bainum Family Foundation, whose generous support enabled us to advocate on behalf of TANF reform for the District’s children and families.”


Children’s Law Center fights so every District child can grow up with a loving family, good health and a quality education. Judges, pediatricians and families turn to us to be the voice for children who are abused or neglected, who aren’t learning in school, or who have health problems that can’t be solved by medicine alone. With 100 staff and hundreds of pro bono lawyers, we reach one out of every nine children in DC’s poorest neighborhoods – more than 5,000 children and families each year. More information is available at

Contact: Katie Test Davis

202.467.4900 x515