Temporary Assistance for Needy Families: Welfare Waivers

Source: Gene Falk, Congressional Research Service (CRS), R42627, September 21, 2012

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it is willing to waive certain federal work participation standards under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant to permit states to experiment with “alternative and innovative strategies, policies, and procedures that are designed to improve employment outcomes for needy families.” The major provision that HHS would waive is the numerical performance standards that states must meet or risk being penalized through a reduction in their TANF block grant. HHS announced this initiative on July 12, 2012.

The TANF statute provides that 50% of all families and 90% of two-parent families included in a participation rate are required to be engaged in work, though few states have ever faced the full standard because this percentage is reduced for certain credits…. The new waivers would permit states to have welfare-to-work initiatives assessed using different measures than the TANF work participation rate. Thus, states could test alternative welfare-to-work approaches by engaging recipients in activities currently not countable without risk of losing block grant funds. States would have to apply for waivers, which must be approved by HHS and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). States would also be required to monitor performance measures and evaluate the alternative welfare-to-work program. HHS also indicated it might waive some requirements that apply to states for verifying work activities.

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