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Testimony: Oversight Hearing for Department of Human Services (FY12)

Judith Sandalow, executive director of Children’s Law Center, testified before the DC Council’s Committee on Human Services at a hearing to review the performance of the Department of Human Services. Her testimony focused on an aid program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Read a summary below or review her full testimony as submitted to the committee.

“TANF is a life sustaining bridge for many families,” Sandalow noted. DC has been working to reform its TANF program to ensure a “welfare to work” trajectory that helps families achieve financial stability on their own. As part of the reforms, and following the lead of several state legislative bodies, Councilmembers Jim Graham and Michael Brown recently introduced legislation that would provide exceptions to time limits on TANF aid for people who are victims of domestic violence or who have diabilities. The time limit currently in effect will also cut many families off TANF before a new employment program is rolled out. Other supports and services do not yet have the capacity to assist families who will be removed from TANF.

Cutting a family’s welfare benefits impacts more than their income. They may struggle with housing instability, health problems and hunger – all of which directly and disproportionately impact young children and their physical and mental development. Moreover, there is a link between reduction of welfare benefits and an increase in child maltreatment. Cost-cutting in TANF programs will almost certainly increase reliance on other District systems of support that could be more costly in the long run.