Tommy Thompson on Families & Children
Former Secretary of H.H.S.; former Republican Governor (WI)
The guy usually raises his hand and says, “I will take choice number two, but I can’t find a job.” The judge says, “Okay, we will give you 16 weeks of nonpay status to clean brush out of ditches or sweep the street or be a crossing guard.” You know what happens? Like manna from heaven, they get a job and they start paying.
On behalf of the nation’s Governors, we are writing to express our opposition to cuts in the child support program as included in the Foster Care Independence Act of 1999. Notwithstanding the merit of the Independent Living program, we cannot support paying for the expansion of one human services program at the expense of the child support system.
However, we are greatly concerned that H.R. 1802 will have a detrimental impact on the stability of states’ child support financing structures. Child support provides a crucial income support for many families, a large number of whom are low-income and transitioning off of welfare. With the dramatic drop in welfare caseloads, a greater share of families now served by the child support system are those not connected to the welfare system. While the drop in caseloads translates to success in welfare, it creates financial instability for many states’ child support financing structures.
H.R. 1802 will repeal the “hold harmless” provision that was enacted as part of the 1996 welfare reform law to ensure that states did not experience a significant loss in child support funds as a result of a change in child support distribution rules. Governors view the proposed repeal of the “hold harmless” provision as another example of the gradual unraveling of the historic 1996 welfare reform agreement reached among Governors, Congress, and the administration. The repeal of the “hold harmless” provision in H.R. 1802 will only add to the instability of state child support enforcement systems.
The repeal of the “hold harmless” provision will cut federal funding to states’ child support programs by at least $320 million over five years and will result in some states facing great difficulties in achieving the ultimate goal of the child support system - to get more money in the hands of families.
The nation’s Governors have serious concerns with recent proposals to expand the use of TANF funds beyond the original intent of the statute. The TANF block grant was at the heart of the 1996 welfare reform agreement and we strongly oppose attempts to use welfare-related funds to pay for other federal programs.
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