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12 November 2010 Press Statment of Council Member Marion Barry

12 November 2010 Press Statment of Council Member Marion Barry

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Published by Susie Cambria
November 12, 2010
Press Statement of Council Member Marion Barry


Breaking the Cycle of Generational Poverty:
Necessary Reforms to the District’s TANF Program



Good afternoon, welcome everyone and thank you for joining me here today. I am here to discuss a very important issue affecting the majority of families living in the District. My goal here today is to start a public dialogue and action on breaking the cycle of generational poverty, generational joblessness, and generational government assistance.

I want to thank Council Member Tommy Wells and his staff for working, cooperatively with me and my staff to schedule hearings on this issue for Monday, November 15th.
November 12, 2010
Press Statement of Council Member Marion Barry


Breaking the Cycle of Generational Poverty:
Necessary Reforms to the District’s TANF Program



Good afternoon, welcome everyone and thank you for joining me here today. I am here to discuss a very important issue affecting the majority of families living in the District. My goal here today is to start a public dialogue and action on breaking the cycle of generational poverty, generational joblessness, and generational government assistance.

I want to thank Council Member Tommy Wells and his staff for working, cooperatively with me and my staff to schedule hearings on this issue for Monday, November 15th.

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Published by: Susie Cambria on Nov 12, 2010
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November 12, 2010
Press Statement of Council Member Marion BarryBreaking the Cycle of Generational Poverty:Necessar
y Reforms to the District’s TANF Program
 
Good afternoon, welcome everyone and thank you for joining me here today. I am here todiscuss a very important issue affecting the majority of families living in the District. My goalhere today is to start a public dialogue and action on breaking the cycle of generational poverty,generational joblessness, and generational government assistance.I want to thank Council Member Tommy Wells and his staff for working, cooperatively with meand my staff to schedule hearings on this issue for Monday, November 15
th
.Recently, President Obama, in his address to the United Nations and the General Assembly,
stated that, “What is needed most right now is creating conditions where assistance is no
longer needed.
Let’s
move beyond the old narrow debate over how much money we arespending on the anti-
poverty program. Let’s instead focus on results and whether they areactually making improvements in people’s lives.”
What the President stated is exactly what weneed to do here in the District.Currently, the District has over
17,505
families in the
District’s Temporary Assistance to Needy
Families or TANF program. As you may know, TANF is a federally-funded program which givesfunding to states through a
“block grant”. Each year, participating states receive a fixed amount
of funding from the federal government. Federal regulations impose a life-time limit of 60months on the receipt of the federal assistance.
It is then within the State’s discretion t
o use local funds to further the benefits to recipientsbeyond the 60-month time limit. Currently, the District extends this 5-year time limit to over
7,000
families. There are an additional 2,500 families that have been in the program over 8years. Together, these families represent more than half of the entire caseload.
 
Federal regulations also allow for an extension of the 60-
month time limit to 20% of a state’s
entire caseload. The District has exceeded this limit by 30% and we are one of only a few jurisdictions to do so, without time limits. Yet, this important issue is not about dollars,percentages, caseload numbers, or time-limits. This issue presents a bigger problem thataffects everyone in this city.My goal here, today, and with my introduction of legislation, B18-
1061, the “District of Columbia Public Assistance Amendment Act of 2010”, is to address "
Breaking the Cycle
".Our public education system is failing our children who become adults; they do not have theproper skills to obtain gainful employment. This further perpetuates a cycle of generational
poverty that leaves families in the “system” for decades, generation after generation.
The TANF program is only one factor in breaking the cycle.Although the original intention and purpose of the federal TANF program was to assist familieswith children during a time of unemployment or under-employment, and ultimately preparethem to re-
enter the workforce; the current TANF program, let’s face it, both locally and
nationally, has failed to alleviate long-term poverty, allowing individuals to continue on thiscycle of reliance and dependency.In 2008, the Council urged the current Mayor to make some significant changes within ourTANF program. The Committee on Human Services, Chaired by Councilmember Tommy Wells,held several hearings and meetings with the advocates and the administration on this issue.The result of these discussions uncovered the fact that out of 17,800 families currently in theprogram; only
500 families
were in compliance with the program. That means there arethousands of families in the programs who are not complying, and the government does not
have a system currently in place to determine why they aren’t.
 
Why aren’t the families complying?
What are the barriers that prevent them from complyingwith the program? Why do we not know the answers to these questions?Last week, I met with over a dozen poverty advocates here in the District, the Director of the
District’s Department of Human Services, Clarence Carter, and Councilmember Wells’ staff 
hoping to get some answers to these questions.We had more than an hour long discussion on the current issues within our TANF program.For example, some advocates expressed their concerns about the current barriers that TANFrecipients face such as, the need for better individualized assessments; connection to betterservices; access to better education and training; and, better referrals to legal organizations forrepresentation regarding Supplemental Security Income proceedings.
I continued to ask, “Why are the families in the local program not meeting the basic federalrequirements?”
 
Some answered that there are recipients, actually enrolled in education programs that are notcounted towards the federal guidelines; others indicated that recipients do not meet therequirements, due to the need for additional services such as, counseling, substance abusetreatment or, a disability.These are issues that the government needs to be aware of in order to provide the appropriateand necessary services to recipients, while preparing them to re-enter the workforce. If wecannot effectively identify individual barriers, how can we expect recipients to comply with theprogram?Director Carter has stated that DHS is currently in the process of redesigning the system andbeginning an individual analysis and assessment program in order to work toward the goal of growing human capacity, versus merely providing a benefit. DHS is calling this program
redesign, “The TANF Universal Delivery Model”.
 This new service delivery model offers TANF customers a suite of services to better match theirgoals, unique needs, and personal and family circumstances. The model allows the program tounderstand the situation of the TANF recipients and meet them where they are.My question is this, since Mr. Carter has been the Director for over 3 years, why has it taken allthis time to redesign the system? Therefore, I am looking forward to Direc
tor Carter’s
testimony at the public hearing on Monday. Specifically, I will be listening for a completedescription of the program, as it exists currently, and his proposed major changes withcoinciding timelines and projections.The government needs to change our system, rapidly, and every agency should be expected toparticipate in the solution because the TANF program has failed in its mission.What I want to make very clear today, and in any discussion going forward, is that the focus of this issue is
not
about completely removing families from the program or reducing benefitswithout having a real discussion on how we can better improve our program. I am well awareof the fact that time limits do not create work participation. This bill is a work in progress, andlike most of the bills introduced at the Council, it will not be presented to the full Council in itsdraft form. Myself, along with the members of the Committee, upon hearing the testimony onMonday, will work hard to craft the bill in a manner that will require the District to develop aplan for those currently in the local program who are nearing or, at the 60-month time limit.Again, the goal is to identify ways of making our current program more effective and betterserving of the recipients. This goal promotes principles of self sufficiency, personalresponsibility, and opportunity for upward mobility, for people who are stuck in this cycle of poverty.It is fair to say that a significant number of families currently in the TANF program do not wantto be dependent on the system. The average monthly benefit for most families in the programis $374 month which is hardly enough to support their children and provide basic needs fortheir families. There is nothing more boastful to a citizen's sense of purpose and self-sufficiency

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