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Is the Superwaiver the Only Way?

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Publication Date: March 2004

Publisher(s): Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (Washington, D.C.)

Author(s): Shawn Fremstad; Sharon Parrott

Funder(s): Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (Washington, D.C.)

Funder(s): Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (Washington, D.C.)

Special Collection: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Topic: Social conditions (Public welfare and social services)

Keywords: Community economic development; Executive privilege; Housing assistance; Economic projections

Type: Report


A provision known as the “superwaiver” has emerged as one of the most contentious issues in the TANF reauthorization debate. Originally proposed by the Administration, the House included the superwaiver in TANF reauthorization legislation it passed last year. The House superwaiver provision would give sweeping new authority to the Executive Branch to override, at the request of a state governor, almost any federal law or rule governing any of a long list of low-income programs, including the Food Stamp Program and the public housing program. Congress would have no role in a process that allows the Executive Branch and states to change the most fundamental aspects of these programs, including how federal funds are used, the target population for benefits, and the types and amount of benefits provided.

The stated purpose of the House superwaiver provision — which refers to superwaivers as “program coordination demonstration projects” — is to “coordinate multiple public assistance, workforce development, and other programs.” Proponents of the superwaiver have claimed the provision is needed to enable states and localities to improve program coordination.