Children’s Law Center Policy Director Sharra E. Greer testified before the DC Council Committee on Human Services regarding devastating cuts to social safety net programs proposed in the Department of Human Services Fiscal Year 2012 budget.
The budget proposes a $20.5 million cut to homeless services and a $5 million cut to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The cuts will lead to more children living in unsafe conditions and in foster care – causing short term trauma and long term damage to the District’s children.
While Children’s Law Center understands the difficult budget times, the proposed cuts provide only modest savings at a significant human and financial long term cost.
The proposed cut to homeless services will put as many as 300 families on the street. Already, the District has begun denying shelter to children and families who have no safe place to stay. If a family has no place to stay and the District must remove children from these families to keep them safe, it will cost much more – it costs an average of $80,000 more a year to place two children in foster care than to shelter a family with two children.
Regarding proposed cuts to TANF, we do not dispute that the district’s TANF program is flawed and reforms are necessary. However, cutting off resources without reform will just make a bad situation worse. Child poverty, which has already increased in recent years, will rise further. Currently, 29 percent of children in DC live in poverty, up from 22 percent in 2007. This represents the largest increase in poverty for any group in DC since the start of the recession.
Cutting TANF will have devastating consequences for children. Welfare sanctions and benefit decreases are associated with a significantly increased rate of hospitalizations in young children and significantly increased rates of food insecurity. Children who live in food insecure homes are more likely to suffer from poor health. Other studies suggest that children in families that are sanctioned do worse in several developmental areas and have lower scores on academic tests. There is also a link between reduction in welfare benefits and an increase in child maltreatment.
Read the full testimony here.