HARRISBURG, Oct. 26 – State Sen. Katie Muth and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Phila., yesterday officially introduced legislation that would provide a historic update to the 25-year-old Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.
Sen. Muth’s Senate Bill 918 and Rep. Kenyatta’s companion House Bill 2012 would boost TANF benefits to up to 50% of the federal poverty level, up from 22%.
“TANF benefits have not been increased in over 30 years and nationally, TANF benefits have fallen substantially in value and do far less to help families escape crippling poverty,” Muth said. “In Pennsylvania, the majority of families receive around $403 per month for a family of three — that is not nearly enough money for a family to survive on. We must do more to provide meaningful assistance that creates financial stability for TANF families and opportunities for their children.”
The legislators were joined by members of the statewide Meet the Need Coalition, which includes Pennsylvania Health Access Network, Community Legal Services, Just Harvest, Black Women’s Policy Agenda and the Building Wealth and Health Network.
“Over the last 24 years, prices have gone up for every basic necessity, including food and housing, and the TANF program has not been given more money to help needy families be able to afford these necessities,” Kenyatta added. “Our state government has $ 7.5 billion saved, and some of my colleagues are burying their head in the sand when we could be spending this money on programs like TANF to help the citizens of the commonwealth who need it the most,”
Maria Pulzetti, of CLS, said, “Our motto is ‘No child should live in deep poverty.’ We shouldn’t have to say this. But we do. We know poverty in childhood has lasting consequences for health, developmental and educational outcomes.”
TANF recipient Veronica Taylor added, “Scarcity keeps people and families on edge and feeling depleted. To always have to worry about where you’ll live and what you’ll eat takes away the ability to dream for tomorrow.”
Clarissa Bordnet retraced starting life over after leaving the husband who sought to kill her.
“Starting out on TANF, my rent was $500 a month, and for family of five, we received $525,” Bordnet said. “That leaves $25 a month for diapers, toiletries, clothes for the children and myself, gas, medical bills.
“More than 70 percent of recipients on TANF are victims of domestic violence. I am not an anomaly. But I am a voice.”