Explains how state programs under the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program can provide better educational opportunities for low-income families by improving the alignment of TANF with other state-funded programs.
“Changes in our economy have made it increasingly hard for workers with only a high school education or less to earn enough to support a family. The labor market places a growing premium on education and training beyond high school. Those who have at least a two- or four-year college degree have seen their earnings hold steady (and for women, rise), while the earnings of those with only a high school diploma have dropped substantially—for men, by about a third. High school dropouts are the worst off—their earnings have fallen almost by half” (p.1).  While TANF is intended to provide temporary support, the authors state that TANF  recipients would greatly benefit if further education and work-related activities could count towards the TANF “work participation rate” (p.1). “This brief [highlighted] ways that states may count or combine work activities to get full credit for their measured work participation rate. It also [explained] changes that programs can make to improve their alignment with the TANF rules and make it easier for caseworkers to refer TANF participants” (p. 1). It included an outline of current TANF regulations, specifically caps on education and vocational training, while providing specific examples of how some states work around these regulations. Further, this article described strategies that states as well as educators can implement to take full advantage of federal TANF opportunities. (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Major Findings & Recommendations

The authors identify strategies that states can adopt to “avail themselves of the flexibility under the Federal law,” including (p.3): • States should “use the full 30 percent allotment for vocational education. Many states are well under this limit” (p.3). • States should “not unnecessarily restrict the types of education and training that may be counted…[They should] utilize the full 12 months for which vocational educational training can be counted as a stand-alone activity” (p.3). • “Whenever a participant has sufficient core hours from other activities, [States should] report education and training as job skills training, which is not time limited, rather than as vocational training” (p.6). • States should “Make best use of the months of participation…When a student does not have enough hours of activity to be counted toward the [work participation rate] WPR (such as during a break in classes or while dealing with an extended family illness), the state should consider not reporting the hours of participation for that period. Reporting such hours uses up a month of eligibility for vocational education but does not increase the state’s WPR” (p.5). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)