March 31, 2011

Tomorrow: A Dark Day for Low-Income Families

On April 1, thousands of DC families will wake up to a 20% reduction in their cash assistance. Benefits will be cut for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients that have been in the program more than five years and do not meet one of three very narrow exemptions. For a parent and two children, monthly benefits will be reduced from $428 to $342.

Regardless of their different timelines, needs, and goals, families need enough cash assistance to stay stable. Despite moves from the TANF agency to reform the program, DC still lacks strong support services and job training. These shortfalls combined with the lack of jobs due to the recession make this a terrible time to further cut life-saving assistance.

As these harsh cuts go into affect, we wanted to take an opportunity to share a story about the daily realities of TANF recipients.

Bread client Patty Anne has worked to overcome homelessness, health issues, an abusive partner, and lots of housing drama, all while trying to find a job and navigate the system to get help for her and her daughter. She shared her story on Beyond Bread and with the Mayor when the decision to reduce TANF benefits was made as part of the budget gap-closing last December. Her words are worth repeating:

It’s hard to make ends meet on a fixed income, even though I’m careful with my budget. My daughter hasn't had a new coat for three years, and right now we’re wearing our coats in the house because I can't turn the heat on. I don't want to run the bills up and then have my utilities cut off. That's grounds to lose my housing voucher, and I can’t take that chance.

It’s clear that they give you the help that they want to give you, not what you need to pick yourself up. It’s not like I’ve been asking for a million dollars, or for people to move mountains or part seas. I just want a stable home for me and my daughter. I want somebody to step up and help me do better for myself, so I can do better for her. I don't want her to live in a constant state of trial and tribulation. If I had the tools that I needed, I would be able to make it.

Read Patty Anne's complete post now or watch her speak advocate directly with the Mayor in this video from Empower DC:

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