A new study conducted by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP)has unveiled racist practices embedded in federal programs that provide financial assistance to low-income families. Their research found that for the past 25 years, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program has been excluding single mothers and children by enforcing restrictive requirements. The study stated that requirements that excluded Black mothers and children from receiving benefits included employment requirements, if they were unmarried, frequent drug testing and Electronic Benefit Card (EBT) restrictions. The data showed that less than 50% of Black families have received cash assistance benefits since 1956.
“This legacy of exclusion and subjugation is a major reason why TANF cash assistance, though a critical support for some, doesn’t meet the needs of most families in poverty, regardless of their race or ethnicity,” the study stated.
The CBPP found that “TANF’s harsh work requirements and arbitrary time limits disproportionally cut off Black and other families of color.” Furthermore, Black children are more likely to live in states where the cash benefits are the lowest and reaches the fewest amount of families. There are 17 states that provide the same amount of cash assistance it did 25 years ago or less. The states that distribute funds that reach the lowest amount of families receiving assistance include Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Kansas, North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Missouri, Ohio, Kentucky and more. Since TANF isn’t reach as many families as it should, the research found that it is an incredibly ineffective program.
“Recognizing the ways in which racist views of Black women [influence] the basic design of the current TANF program is the first step to redesigning TANF to be anti-racist,” Ife Floyd, one of the report researchers and the director of TANF research and analysis with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities told the Florida Phoenix.
The cash assistance programs are controlled by the state while the federal government funds it with billions of dollars each year. One recommendation the CBPP has is for the federal government to “establish a federal minimum benefit so that no family falls below a certain income level.” Other recommendations include:
• Ending and barring mandatory work requirements.
• Barring behavioral requirements, time limits, and other eligibility exclusions.
• Refocusing TANF agencies on helping families address immediate crises and improving long-term well-being.
• Changing TANF’s funding structure to strengthen basic assistance, address funding inequities,
and prevent erosion over time.