Children’s Law Center senior supervising attorney Lauren Onkeles-Klein testified before DC Council’s Committee on Human Services in support of Bill 20-414, which would add cost of living adjustments (COLAs) to DC’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits. Read a summary below or review her full testimony as submitted to the committee.
Many of Children’s Law Center’s clients receive TANF benefits, which by definition are only available for families with children. Children in families whose only source of income is TANF are at intense levels of poverty. Poverty creates stress and trauma for families and children, and their negative effects are not only devastating in the moment, but can impact a child for the rest of his or her life. Because DC’s TANF rates have not been regularly increased to reflect changes to the cost of living, the actual financial benefit DC families receive from TANF today has declined almost 30% since 1996.
DC is working to reform and redesign the TANF program, but it’s critically important to ensure we don’t lower benefits year to year by allowing the regular and predictable rate of inflation to chip away at their already meager support. Doing what we can to help families come out of poverty is one of the most effective series of public policy decisions we can make in terms of the long-term impact impact on indicators of community health and well-being.