House and Senate TANF Reauthorization Bills Would Not Free Up Large Sums for Child Care

Publication Date: November 2003

Publisher: Center for Law and Social Policy

Author(s): Mark Greenberg; Jennifer Mezey

Research Area: Social conditions

Type: Report

Coverage: United States


Members of the Administration and others have asserted that enacting pending Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) legislation would free up $2 billion for states to use for child care. The Administration is seemingly referring to the fact that, under current law, unobligated TANF carryover funds (i.e., funds from prior years) can only be spent for assistance, while under the bills passed by the House and approved by the Senate Finance Committee, unobligated carryover funds could be used for any allowable TANF expenditure.

Letting states use unobligated carryover funds for any allowable TANF expenditure would provide needed administrative simplification, but it would not result in $2 billion becoming newly available for child care or other purposes. Making it easier for states to exhaust their reserves is no substitute for increasing federal child care funding. Without additional federal child care funds, children will lose their child care subsidies and families will be less able to obtain and maintain employment.