Eligibility (ERSEA)

Welfare Reform Reauthorization

Former President George W. Bush signed the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 on Feb. 8, 2006. Grantees will find this information useful when recruiting eligible children for Head Start. The law reauthorized the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program administered by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Administration for Children and Families (ACF).

[Former] President George W. Bush signed the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 on Feb. 8, 2006. The law reauthorizes the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program administered by HHS’ Administration for Children and Families (ACF).

"The reauthorization of the TANF program takes the next step in welfare reform by strengthening work requirements and providing the assistance families need to climb the career ladder," [former] HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said. "Welfare reform is helping millions of people climb out of poverty. Now, we want to go the next step and help them climb the job ladder by creating more opportunities for education and job training."

The new law maintains the same 50 percent work participation requirement for states as before. However, prior to the reauthorization, a caseload reduction credit allowed states to reduce their work requirement by their caseload decline since 1996. As most states experienced dramatic caseloads declines, the credit had virtually eliminated the work participation requirements for most states.

The reauthorization recalibrates the base year for calculating the caseload reduction credit and also closes a loophole to include separate state programs in the work calculation. These changes effectively re-implement a meaningful state work participation rate requirement as envisioned by the architects of welfare reform back in 1996.

The reauthorization includes $150 million to support programs designed to help couples form and sustain healthy marriages. Up to $50 million of this amount may be used for programs designed to encourage responsible fatherhood. In its welfare reform law of 1996, Congress stipulated three of the four purposes of the TANF block grant to states be related to promoting healthy marriages.

"A key component of welfare reform is supporting healthy marriages and responsible fatherhood," Dr. Horn added. "Approval of these funds will help to achieve welfare reform's ultimate goal: improving the well-being of children."

The Healthy Marriage Initiative, administered by ACF, was created in 2002 by [former] President Bush to help couples who have chosen marriage gain greater access to marriage education services, on a voluntary basis, where they can acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to form and sustain a healthy marriage. Funding for responsible fatherhood includes initiatives to help men be more committed involved and responsible fathers, and the development of a national media campaign to promote responsible fatherhood.

The welfare reauthorization provisions also made several improvements to the child support enforcement program, including a change that will provide more support directly to families, especially those who have left welfare.