States bear enormous responsibility for administering the nation’s safety net programs. They are the first responders when unemployed workers apply for unemployment benefits, food assis­tance and welfare. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 expanded some safety net support, temporarily filling in some of the benefit gaps.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the nation’s largest anti-hunger program.  SNAP benefits provide a significant boost to local economies.  Federal stimulus legislation increased these benefits.  The SNAP program is federally funded but administered at the state level.

States bear enormous responsibility for administering the nation’s safety net programs. They are the first responders when unemployed workers apply for unemployment benefits, food assistance and welfare. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 expanded some safety net support, temporarily filling in some of the benefit gaps.

Congress has failed to act in a timely manner on the reauthorization of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families block grant. Nonetheless, the next generation of welfare reform is already underway. A slowly growing economy, the end of rapid caseload reductions, massive state and local budget problems, and the constraints of a closed-ended block grant will pose serious constraints on state flexibility and on states’ ability to continue new programs developed under the block grant. At the same time, a larger portion of child-only cases, increased sanction rates, a residual population of longer-term cases and the needs of the working poor will require new programs and more effective services. Although it will be difficult, states have little option but to begin to address these problems without waiting for federal action.

As states continue to implement the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) block grant, they will need to address issues such as rapidly approaching time limits on federal assistance and the importance of enhancing supports to promote job retention and advancement. In addition, as Congress considers the reauthorization of TANF and other income-security programs, states will want to give close attention to both programmatic aspects of any reauthorization proposal and to their impact on state and local flexibility.

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