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“MInd Boggling”: Tennessee Advances Legislation That Would Tie Welfare To Children’s Grades

Two Tennessee lawmakers introduced legislation that would tie welfare assistance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program to the educational performance of students who benefit from it, and the legislation was approved by committees in both the state House and Senate last week.

Under the legislation brought by two Republicans, a student who doesn’t not make “satisfactory progress” in school would cost his or her family up to 30 percent of its welfare assistance, the Knoxville News and Sentinel reported:

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, and Rep. Vance Dennis, R-Savannah. It calls for a 30 percent reduction in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits to parents whose children are not making satisfactory progress in school.

As amended, it would not apply when a child has a handicap or learning disability or when the parent takes steps to try improving the youngster’s school performance — such as signing up for a “parenting class,” arranging a tutoring program or attending a parent-teacher conference.

When Campfield introduced the legislation in January, he said parents have “gotten away with doing absolutely nothing to help their children” in school. “That’s child abuse to me,” he added. Tennessee already ties welfare to education by mandating a 20 percent cut in benefits if students do not meet attendance standards, but this change would place the burden of maintaining benefits squarely on children, who would face costing their family much-needed assistance if they don’t keep up in school.

TANF, meanwhile, is failing students and their families. It serves fewer impoverished families and children than its predecessor did before the 1996 welfare reform law was instituted, and it especially failed during the Great Recession, when the rate of families served fell in 35 states despite increases in both poverty and unemployment. And Tennessee’s welfare program is hardly robust — the maximum benefit is $185 a month and hasn’t changed since 1996. Given that low-income students already struggle to keep up in school, further reducing the already-modest benefits they receive from TANF isn’t likely to improve educational outcomes. It could instead make them worse.

 

By: Travis Waldron, Think Progress, April 1, 2013

April 2, 2013 Posted by | Poverty, Welfare | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Real Mothers Vs Moochers”: Is Motherhood The Most Important Job?

It can be hard to remember a mere six months ago, but that was when we were talking about the hard work mothers perform in the home and how valuable it is. A recap: Democratic surrogate Hilary Rosen said that Ann Romney, who is a stay-at-home mother, has never worked a day in her life. In the blink of an eye, both sides jumped on the moment to declare their undying fealty to mothers and their awe at the hard work women perform in the home. Romney even went so far as to say that Ann’s job was “harder” and “more important” than his own, be it running the state of Massachusetts or the Olympics. (Although he never explained why he didn’t simply trade places with her.)

Someone watching this debate couldn’t be blamed for coming away with the impression that this country has put motherhood on a gold-plated pedestal. But it turns out that pedestal is contingent on certain factors—class being chief among them. A Pennsylvania House bill proposed last week sought to limit the amount of TANF assistance—formally known as welfare support—that low-income women receive based on how many children they give birth to while covered. In other words: the more children a woman on welfare has, the fewer benefits she receives.

The good news is that three sponsors of the bill have since backed away from it, claiming to not have read it closely enough. The bad news is that Pennsylvania was simply following a trend. At my request, Joan Entmacher of the National Women’s Law Center calculated that as of July 2010, seventeen states had “family cap” policies that limit the amount of TANF assistance available to mothers who have children while receiving benefits. When Ann Romney stays at home to raise her five boys, financed by her family’s wealth and income, we revere her as the pinnacle of womanhood and a hardworking American. When a poor mother has five boys, we punish her by denying her the benefits she needs to keep them healthy and happy.

Unfortunately the horror doesn’t stop there. What about a woman who is raped and then bears her rapist’s child while on TANF? Should she have her benefits decreased? Pennsylvania, in its magnanimity, granted that this woman shouldn’t be docked. She just has to give the state a signed statement that she was a victim of rape or incest and that she reported the crime and the identity of her offender to law enforcement. (Never mind that over half of all rapes are never reported given the stigma and ordeal victims are put though.) She also has to sign a statement affirming that she understands that “false reports to law enforcement authorities are punishable by law” and that lets her know the state will report “evidence of false statements or fraud” to the correct department. As summarized by Jake Blumgart: “State Reps to Poor Women: Prove You Were Raped or Lose TANF Assistance.”

Once again, Pennsylvania is sadly not alone. Many states require parents to cooperate with child support enforcement to receive childcare assistance, often to establish paternity and provide accurate information. Last month, the Children, Youth and Families Department of New Mexico decided to pull a Todd Aiken and considered an amendment to this policy that would exempt victims of “forcible rape” from having to file child support claims against the absent parent. And even worse, a bunch of states already use this language. According to Entmacher, at least four states list forcible rape as one potential reason for an exemption: Colorado, Idaho, Maryland and Rhode Island, with varying levels of detail about how a woman should go about proving that her rape is “legitimate.”

In the motherhood hierarchy, then, women who don’t need welfare support rank highest, followed by mothers who can “prove” that their rape is rape rape. Tough luck for low-income women who were date raped, raped when drugged or simply had a wanted child. Our message to them is that they’re not really mothers. They’re just moochers.

 

By: Bryce Covert, The Nation, October 29, 2012

October 30, 2012 Posted by | Women | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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