Letter to U.S. Senate on WORK Act and TANF Re-Authorization, October 28, 2002

October 28, 2002

The Honorable Thomas A. Daschle
Majority Leader
United States
, DC 20510

Dear Senator Daschle:

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops continues to support comprehensive reauthorization of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families welfare program this year.We believe the Senate Finance Committee-passed Work, Opportunity, and Responsibility for Kids (WORK) Act, with necessary improvements, offers the best available approach to serving the needs of poor and low-income families struggling to leave welfare for work and self-sufficiency.However, it appears it may not be possible to finalize work on comprehensive reauthorization, given the crowded legislative agenda that must be completed before Congress adjourns.

If it is not possible to complete full reauthorization of TANF before the end of this Congress, then we urge you to extend the current program for three years in a manner that recognizes the immediate need for improvements in a few critical areas.A three-year extension seems the most appropriate way to move forward for both participants and states, as it will provide a measure of fiscal and programmatic stability to the state human services programs that are essential to welfare participants trying to move from welfare to work.

In any extension of TANF, we urge you to provide additional funding for child care and to address the restoration of benefits eligibility for legal immigrants.Child care funding is a pressing need even under the current TANF program. States, already lacking sufficient resources to meet the child care needs of low-income families, are forced to ration child care subsidies through waiting lists, preferences for welfare families over low-income working families outside the welfare system, and lowered eligibility requirements. Since the 1996 welfare reform law was passed, we have worked to restore the ability of legal immigrants to receive publicly funded assistance.It is imperative steps be taken to restore full benefit eligibility for legal immigrants.

We also support measures to help states do more to promote healthy marriages, and the continuation of current abstinence-only programs to reduce out of wedlock pregnancies.In addition, we hope that you will be able to give states more flexibility to provide participants with training opportunities in conjunction with work over the next three years, perhaps increasing the number of months such activities are allowed.

As the 107th Congress completes its work, we urge you to do everything possible to continue and improve upon welfare policies to help overcome the poverty of our sisters and brothers and to help their families live in dignity.

Grateful for your attention, and with every good wish, I am

Faithfully yours,

Theodore Cardinal McCarrick
Archbishop of Washington
Chairman, Domestic Policy Committee

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