Haslam proposes 20% increase in welfare benefits

Besides requiring work for more food stamp recipients, Gov. Haslam is also proposing to increase welfare benefit payments for the first time since 1996, reports the Times Free Press.

Yet another Haslam proposal: Provide transitional funding for welfare families whose bread winners’ jobs or raises put them beyond the reach of assistance such as child care before they’re able to stand on their own.

Haslam made the announcement Monday, saying the reinstatement of work or education requirements in 70 of Tennessee’s 95 counties for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program would take effect May 1.

About 1.1 million Tennesseans receive SNAP (formerly known as food stamp) benefits. The vast majority are families, seniors, the disabled and low-paid workers who rely on the money as a support. Those people would not be affected.

…The administration’s initial news release (posted HERE) made no mention of Haslam’s plan to ask fellow Republicans in the General Assembly, who control both chambers, to boost payments to the 25,000 families on TANF, the welfare program.

They haven’t seen their monthly checks increase since Tennessee’s Families First program went into effect in 1996.

Payments technically are tied to the state’s Standard of Need, providing 20 percent of the average costs of raising a family based on family size. It’s calcaluted annually for the state by the University of Tennessee. But because lawmakers haven’t raised the standard since 1996, the amount given is far less than 21 years ago given inflation.

Therefore, Haslam said, he is proposing providing a boost.

For example, Tennessee now provides $185 for a family of three, whereas the average for surrounding states is $262.

Haslam said he will have a bill that would provide about 20 percent of the standard to a family of three. The result would be $277, or $92 more than they now receive.

Update/Note: An astute emailer points out that the original Haslam release does have this line at the bottom of a bulleted listing of components of the proposed legislation:

“Encouraging family stabilization by linking the TANF maximum benefit to the current standard of need.”

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