For months, Republicans in the Senate have blocked an extension of the currently expired Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund, a successful jobs program that has created more than 250,000 subsidized jobs for low-income workers through grants to states.
The Emergency Fund has the support of a slew of governors — with conservative darling Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS) saying that it provided “much-needed aid during this recession by enabling businesses to hire new workers, thus enhancing the economic engines of our local communities” — but it has been sitting idle since September, causing states to terminate or greatly scale back their employment programs.
The TANF program itself is the nation’s basic welfare program, and before departing for the weekend, the Senate reauthorized TANF while leaving the Emergency Fund on the sidelines:
The bill did not revive an emergency fund, passed as part of the 2009 economic stimulus law, that enabled states to place adults with private employers and youths in summer jobs programs. That funding expired at the end of September after Republicans blocked attempts to extend it.
“This program delivers exactly what my colleagues say they want — jobs — yet time and again, they have put up a unified wall of resistance against reinstating it,” said Sen. John Kerry (D-MA). In fact, House Republicans named the expired program as one of the first things they would cut from the federal budget (saving exactly zero dollars).
As the Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen wrote, “in a sane political world, the death of the TANF Emergency Fund would be a pretty big scandal, and Republicans would be afraid to kill an effective jobs program with an unemployment rate near 10%.” Not only was the program incredibly successful, but it is supported by a huge majority of the public, according to a new poll conducted by Hart Research Associates:
A new poll conducted by Hart Research Associates reveals strong public support for human needs programs that aid low-income and jobless Americans. The poll, commissioned by the Half in Ten campaign, shows overwhelming support for the TANF Emergency Fund, with 79 percent of respondents answering in favor of continuing this successful job-creation engine.
And this favorability is bipartisan, as the TANF Emergency Fund “receives nearly unanimous support from Democrats (90%), as well as strong support from both independents (77%) and Republicans (70%).”
The basic TANF reauthorization was a golden opportunity to extend the Emergency Fund and get a highly effective jobs program back on its feet. Instead, Congress seems content with shrugging at nearly ten percent unemployment.