After a tremendous amount of digging, the most specific answer I could uncover is this: Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin proposed a bill to extend the fund for three more months. The fund subsidizes employers to cover the wages of the working poor, helping them move from welfare to work. The extension bill passed in the House, but Senate Republicans unanimously opposed it and shut it down. With no comment from either Texas Senators Hutchison or Cornyn regarding the end of the fund, helping the needy move from welfare to work is apparently not a priority for them.
Hmph. Aren’t we supposed to be saving jobs here?
The additional $243 million emergency fund was allotted to Texas as part of the stimulus act in 2009. The money could be used (with a 20/80 state/federal match) for increased expenditures in two areas: short-term TANF benefits, and subsidized employment for TANF adults struggling to find work.
Texas did not qualify for a federal expenditure match in a third category – the monthly cash assistance category. To qualify, TANF caseloads would have had to increase from the 2007 and 2008 levels, which quite frankly just wouldn’t happen in Texas. And that is not because things are lookin’ up.
In a report done by the Center for Public Policy Priorities, the number of TANF cases has decreased by a whopping 83% in the last 12 years. Why? According to CPPP, it’s not due to a decrease in families and individuals who qualify. Instead, needy families are falling through the cracks because of an overwhelming number of work requirements, time limits, and strict penalties for not meeting the program’s constraints. For example, to qualify for monthly cash assistance, the total income for a household of three cannot exceed $188. Yeah, that’s one hundred and eighty eight dollars a month. And the average monthly grant for a family of three: only $208. As it is, fewer than 2.7 percent of the more than 4 million Texans in poverty receive monthly cash assistance. The requirements to keep receiving benefits are so high, and the help that can be received is so low, what’s the point? Then again, maybe that is the point.
This is why the poverty rate in Texas’ poverty population is at 16.6 percent* – the 5th highest rate in the nation. Why would GOP Senators allow a stimulus program that’s actually working – and putting people to work – to expire? Especially since Texas was one of three states (along with Michigan and California) with the highest employment decrease in August? Our fearless leaders are always more than willing to take credit for jobs created (and reject stimulus funds to assist those who’ve lost their jobs). We now must ask if they will also own responsibility for the potential jobs just lost.
*Average from 2007 to 2009 from the U.S. Census Bureau
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, CPPP.org, Census.gov