Summary of Final TANF Rules: Some Improvements Around the Margins

Source: Liz Schott, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, February 20, 2008

From the summary:
Overall, the new Final Rule contains some improvements that provide states with some additional flexibility with respect to the activities that can count toward the work participation rate and how states must count and document hours of participation. However, the changes are fundamentally “around the edges” and do not address some of the core concerns that states and others had raised with respect to the Interim Final Rule. The marginal improvements include:

• The Final Rule expanded the circumstances under which a person with a severe disability (applying for or receiving SSI or Social Security Disability Insurance) or a person caring for a disabled family member could be excluded from the work participation rate calculation;

• The Final Rule includes a number of changes that will make it easier for states to get credit toward the work rates when an individual participates in post-secondary education; and

• The Final Rule includes greater flexibility in counting hours of participation with respect to excused absences and participation in job search or job readiness activities.

Moreover, the new Final Rule contains one significant and new restriction on how states can spend their “maintenance of effort” funds — the state funds they must spend to qualify for federal TANF funds. In our view, this new restriction is contrary to the clear language of the statute and to Congressional intent.

This paper summarizes the key concerns that we and other commenters raised about the Interim Final Rules and describes the extent to which HHS made changes in response to these concerns in the Final Rule. The report also highlights the changed regulatory provisions.

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