Congressman Kucinich has actively sought to make reforms to social welfare programs that would reduce poverty, help families to obtain and keep jobs with a livable wage.
The Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program, created in 1996 out of the Aid to Dependent Families (AFDC) program, was a major shift in social welfare programming. TANF embraced a “work-first” strategy and allowed states great flexibility in implementing a block grant. After 5 years, welfare cash assistance caseloads have decreased by nearly 50 percent, but overall poverty has declined by less than 2 percent. Since the economic recession started in March 2002, measures of unemployment and poverty have increased.
In order to provide necessary resources for helping low income families, Congressman Kucinich has written to OMB Director Mitch Daniels with Progressive Caucus colleagues urging funding increase for TANF and has met with Budget Committee Ranking Member John Spratt on the same topic. He was the sponsor of the “Progressive Strategies for TANF Reauthorization” Briefing for the Progressive Caucus, Hispanic Caucus and Black Caucus, including speakers from Welfare Made a Difference, NOW, Center for Fathers, Families and Public Policy, National Council of La Raza, National Partnership for Women and Families, and the National Campaign for Jobs and Income Support.
Congressman Kucinich has also testified before the House Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee and organized one-minute speeches on the House floor. When TANF reauthorization legislation was revised in the House Education and Workforce Committee, Congressman Kucinich offered an amendment to eliminate full family sanctions. During floor consideration, Congressman Kucinich offered the Patsy Mink Memorial TANF Reauthorization Act. This bill, offered as a substitute, would offer real opportunities to families in poverty, back every provision with adequate time and funding, and provide a safety net during times of recession.
During 2002, another important social welfare program was reauthorized – The Food Stamp program. Congressman Kucinich led the Progressive Caucus in an effort to ensure that positive reforms were included in the final bill, such as restored eligibility to legal immigrants, adequate funding, transitional benefits and an extension of the 3-month time limit on jobless, childless adults. He spearheaded a letter with his colleagues in July 2001 to the authorizing committee, and followed up with another letter on April 8, 2002 when the bill was in conference committee.