State program for needy fails clients, advocates say - Albuquerque Journal

State program for needy fails clients, advocates say

New Mexico’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, also called TANF, should be doing more to help families find a way out of poverty, according to “Turning Assistance Into Opportunity,” a just-released KIDS COUNT report from New Mexico Voices for Children.

The TANF program provides financial assistance to eligible families with children for basic necessities. That cash assistance is tied to work or work-related activity requirements, the source of much of the criticism.

“New Mexico has not spent one dime of TANF funding on education and training programs over the last several years,” said Sharon Kayne, spokeswoman for New Mexico Voices for Children, a nonpartisan organization that advocates on behalf of children and families.

A spokesman for the state Human Services Department, which administers the TANF program, neither agreed nor disagreed with the assessment of the report, saying only that the department’s hands were tied and a lot of changes sought by the group need to go through the Legislature.

When welfare was reformed 20 years ago, a lifetime limit of five years was established for people receiving benefits, Kayne said.

“The federal government gives states a lot of leeway in how they spend TANF money, as long as they adhere to TANF goals, which include ending dependence on government benefits by promoting education and job training,” she said. “The work-related activities that TANF does offer can help parents find jobs, but without education or job training, these will not be jobs that can lift families out of poverty or really help our economy.”

James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, said TANF’s objective of getting parents into “any job,” regardless if the income is enough to support the family, “is not a long-term strategy for poverty reduction or economic growth.”

Another weakness with TANF, Jimenez said, is that much of the funding is spent on services that do not end up benefiting TANF families. For example, state child care assistance receives $31 million in TANF funding, but only 4 percent of TANF families receive this benefit even though almost half of children receiving TANF are under the age of 5, he noted.

HSD spokesman Kyler Nerison pointed out that because TANF policies are set by the federal government, and the funds are specifically appropriated by the state Legislature, “the report’s recommendations would need to be implemented by policymakers at those levels,” he said.

“We have worked with legislators to increase TANF funding for the New Mexico Works Career Links program, which provides education, skills improvement and subsidized employment,” Nerison said. “Through legislation, the Department is also establishing high school equivalency (GED) and vocation training programs.”

TANF is funded by nearly $235.9 million, a combination of $104.6 million in federal money and $131.3 million in state money, Kayne said.

According to the KIDS COUNT report, only 22 of every 100 families living in poverty get TANF money, and only 17 in every 100 children – some 23,430 kids – were served by TANF in 2015.

“The cash assistance is also time limited to 60 months over a lifetime and is too little for a family to live on while parents look for work or attend school,” the report said.

A family of three receives an average of $409 per month, which when adjusted for inflation represents a 30 percent drop from 20 years age, it said.

Home » News » New Mexico News » State program for needy fails clients, advocates say


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

1
Water worries
ABQnews Seeker
Ash, debris from burned trees threaten ... Ash, debris from burned trees threaten acequias
2
US Marshals in ABQ shoot, kill fugitive who left ...
ABQnews Seeker
Investigators say man was armed with ... Investigators say man was armed with gun
3
Governor appoints new IT secretary
ABQnews Seeker
New Mexico hoping for broadband expansion ... New Mexico hoping for broadband expansion to rural areas
4
Freedom 4th Celebration is back in ABQ after absence
ABQnews Seeker
Thanks to generous amounts of recent ... Thanks to generous amounts of recent rainfall, the grass is lush and green at Balloon ...
5
Rains ease drought, but flooding threats loom
ABQnews Seeker
Some portions of state received over ... Some portions of state received over half their typical average rainfall
6
More support sought for early childhood education
ABQnews Seeker
Land Grant Permanent fund would be ... Land Grant Permanent fund would be drawn on
7
Sunday shooting deaths of husband, wife will be investigated ...
ABQnews Seeker
Son had been charged with killing ... Son had been charged with killing father; father suspected of killin
8
Court filing: Phone seized from Trump lawyer
ABQnews Seeker
John Eastman, who lives in Santa ... John Eastman, who lives in Santa Fe, says contents are privileged, demands return
9
Lujan Grisham issues order aimed at shielding abortion access ...
ABQnews Seeker
Action taken as NM abortion providers ... Action taken as NM abortion providers brace for influx of out-of-state patients