Noem introduces bills to enhance TANF accountability, boost workforce participation

U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) introduced two bills on Wednesday that aim to bring more accountability to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to help more low-income recipients realize long-term self-sufficiency.

The TANF Accountability and Integrity Improvement Act would ensure that states meet TANF obligations to invest in workforce-related activities. A second bill, the Improving Employment Outcomes of TANF Recipients Act, would consider how effective states have been in helping recipients re-enter and advance in the workforce when formulating a portion of block grant funding.

“The best poverty reduction program out there is a good job,” Noem said. “Unfortunately, today’s programs too often perpetuate poverty rather than opportunity. This legislation aims to bring greater integrity and accountability to the TANF program while reaffirming its core mission: offering upward mobility and the opportunity for greater financial independence to hardworking Americans.”

Under current practices, states are required to demonstrate that at least 50 percent of TANF recipients are engaged in the workforce. That threshold can be reduced if states spend more than required on workforce-related activities, however. Some states classify third-party spending on workforce activities as “state spending” to meet and exceed those requirements.

The TANF Accountability and Integrity Act would clarify that third-party spending does not count toward state spending requirements. The bill aims to force states to invest more in workforce-related activities. Some states, like South Dakota, already exclude third-party spending from state spending totals.

“We need to ensure other states follow South Dakota’s example,” Noem said. “By continuing to engage participants in work activities at the level intended, South Dakota has upheld the integrity of the program and ensured the support we provide through TANF is support that really helps struggling families.”