Pennsylvania Capital Star, February 19
Results of a survey of mothers receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash grants. The survey was conducted by Community Legal Services (CLS) of Philadelphia. This opinion piece was written by CLS Supervising Attorney Maria Pulzetti.
Background: TANF is the only direct income support for Pennsylvania families in deep poverty. A family of three with no other income receiving the maximum benefit gets just $403 per month, leaving them at just 22 percent of the federal poverty level.
Benefits have not increased since 1990, even though the cost of living has more than doubled since then. Expenses are even higher during the pandemic: “I have to purchase masks, cleaning supplies and pay extra for internet and phone services,” one respondent said.
The benefit level, set by Pennsylvania, is insufficient for any family to meet their basic needs. Because of systemic racism and historic disinvestment in Black communities, TANF serves a disproportionately high percentage of Black families: 53 percent of TANF recipients in Pennsylvania are Black. Ignoring the crisis in TANF is ignoring a crisis for Black families.