Fewer Colorado families living in poverty receive cash assistance from TANF / Public News Service

Colorado and other states are hoarding more than $6 billion for struggling families, according to a new analysis.

In 2020, Colorado turned down more requests for cash assistance through the Temporary Needy Family Assistance Program than it accepted. Ali Safawi, an associate fellow at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, said many Colorado families with children aren’t getting the help they need, even though the state has about $87 million in TANF funds. not spent.

“So in Colorado, we find that for every 100 families with children living in poverty, only 20 receive TANF,” he said. “That means 80 out of 100 families aren’t, even though they live in poverty and could really use this help.”

Welfare reforms passed under the Clinton administration, aimed at helping families transition to jobs that would end what critics have called a cycle of dependency, have given states ample leeway. about how to use TANF funds. In Colorado, TANF distributions vary widely depending on the county in which you live.

Safawi noted that most Colorado families living in poverty are already working, but in jobs that don’t pay a living wage. He added that investing in the well-being of children pays off later. When families have the financial resources to meet their basic needs, their children do better in school, earn better wages as adults, and are more financially independent.

“We know from a lot of research that giving cash to families struggling with very low incomes makes a significant difference for children,” he said, “and those impacts are not just immediate we see improvements in their health and economic outcomes into adulthood.”

He pointed to research from Columbia University showing that increasing the income of a low-income family by just $1,000 a year, or about $83 a month, creates more than $10,000 in benefits for the society. Safawi said one way to get help for more Colorado families is to increase eligible income limits, which are exceptionally low.

“It’s $421 a month for a family of three,” he said. “That means if they earn more than that, they’re not eligible. We don’t really see such low income eligibility anywhere else outside of the Deep South, which has a long history of limiting aid. mainly to black families.”

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