July 13,2012

Press Contact:

Julia Lawless, Antonia Ferrier, 202.224.4515

Hatch Statement on Obama Administration TANF Changes & Utah


TO:               Reporters and Editors
FROM:           Antonia Ferrier and Julia Lawless for Senate Finance Committee
                    Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)    
RE:               Obama Administration TANF Changes & Utah
DATE:            Friday, July 13, 2012

The Obama Administration is claiming that states, including Senator Hatch’s home state of Utah, asked for the change the Administration proposed yesterday in guidance to states regarding the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.  That states, including Utah, want more flexibility isn’t the issue here; the issue is that the Administration is pursuing a wholesale change to long-standing policy to ensure that there are work requirements in return for TANF benefits through executive fiat.  NEVER before has an Administration by-passed Congress to make changes to the TANF program since that is the purview of the legislative branch.  But that is exactly what the Department of Health & Human Services did yesterday.  

“This Administration is unbelievable. Green-lighting new regulations to change bipartisan welfare reform without consultation from Congress is an outright abuse of the federal government’s system of checks and balances and an insult to American taxpayers,” said Senator Hatch, Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over the TANF program.

Senator Hatch understands that states, including Utah, want more flexibility – and that is precisely why a wholesale examination of the TANF program is needed.  After all, the TANF reauthorization expired in 2010, with Congress putting through temporary stop-gap measures.  Where is the White House on what TANF should look like in the future?  Does it believe work requirements are essential to promoting work and self-sufficiency?  The answer is that no one knows, because they won’t say.  So instead they adopt what they want without Congress.  While Congress might be a nuisance to the White House, the Constitution has a different view of the matter.  

As to Utah, Utah Department of Workforce Services (DWS) never said that the Obama Administration should side-step Congress - and that is the point.  Furthermore, Utah is not the issue here; it has a very robust work-centered TANF program.  The issue is that Obama Administration has potentially green-lighted changes that could lead to a weakening of important work requirements.  Senator Hatch is not worried that Utah would be one of them.  

In 2011 the Administration solicited input from the states on “administrative flexibility.” The Utah DWS submitted recommendations (letter attached) to the Administration on February 28, 2011. However, the comments from Utah bear only passing resemblance to the “guidance” from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It’s true that Utah would like to be judged on actually getting people back into the workforce and would like some relief from various accounting practices.  These are eminently reasonable perspectives which would certainly be germane in a “regular order” congressional process for reauthorizing TANF.