Capito, Ayotte introduce bipartisan bill to reform, improve poverty programs

July 27, 2016

Bipartisan legislation introduced on Thursday by U.S. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) would reform the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program to better serve low-income families.

The Enhancing and Modernizing Pathways to Opportunity Through Work, Education and Responsibility (EMPOWER) Act would provide education and job training to help lift low-income families out of poverty.

“As economic struggles persist in West Virginia, it is essential we connect more of our residents to new training opportunities and work experiences,” Capito said. “By modernizing and strengthening the purpose of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, known in West Virginia as WV Works, we will work towards this goal while also meeting the immediate financial concerns of those in need and helping to lift more families out of poverty.”

The legislation would eliminate TANF’s “marriage penalty,” which leads to less assistance being provided to two-parent households.

“I’m proud to introduce the EMPOWER Act with my colleagues so we can work together to provide opportunities for individuals in New Hampshire and across the country to get out of poverty,” Ayotte said. “As we care for one another, it’s imperative that we provide state and local governments and communities with all the tools they need to empower individuals and help lift them out of poverty. Our legislation would update the TANF program to connect more adults with training and work experience they need to move them out of poverty and encourage states to focus on delivering results for low income families and children.”

Under the bill, the use of the caseload reduction credit and work supplemental payments would be eliminated and funding would be redirected toward efforts that help ease the transition back into the workforce.

The bill, which was cosponsored by U.S. Sens. Angus King (I-ME) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), would also eliminate work activity definitions, reduce administrative burdens for states, expand opportunities for job training and improve access to job preparation activities.

“TANF is one of our nation’s most important anti-poverty programs; however, twenty years after its original passage it is clear that the law needs to be strengthened to better align with the realities of the 21st century economy,” Andy Van Kleunen, CEO of the National Skills Coalition, said. “In particular, we need to focus on expanding access to proven education and workforce development strategies which can help more TANF recipients to transition into well-paying and sustainable employment, while helping businesses fill growing skills gaps. The EMPOWER Act will make it easier for states and other partners to develop and implement high-quality training opportunities for TANF recipients, and we applaud Sens. King, Ayotte, Brown, and Capito for their leadership on this important issue.”