Act 266 cuts TANF duration in half, here’s why

ARKANSAS (KNWA/FOX24) — Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders recently signed House Bill 1401, a bill that changes how long Arkansans can qualify for welfare assistance.

Now Act 266, reduces the time parents can receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) from two years, down to one.

Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families said those living in poverty will have to rely more on local food or diaper banks with the TANF cash assistance program cut in half. The nonprofit’s Senior Policy Analyst, Bruno Showers, said for every 100 Arkansas families living in poverty, only four receive the funds.

He said it doesn’t reach a lot of low-income families because there are many work requirements to qualify.

The people losing time with this assistance are usually parents working or going to school to better provide for their kids, Shower said. Many use the monthly payment of $81 per person to pay for childcare or transportation, and one year of help just isn’t enough to get them back on their feet.

More than half of those qualifying for TANF rely on assistance for longer than 18 months, according to HB1401.

“They’ll have to work with their caseworker and really try to make the argument with them that they deserve to keep their benefits, which that’s another issue that we have with this legislation,” Showers said. “All that time they’re spending trying to maintain benefits that time could be better spent actually working on their skills or addressing their child care assistance.”

State Representative Rebecca Burkes is the sponsor of this legislation. She represents Springdale, Rogers and Lowell areas and sent KNWA/FOX24 this statement:

“HB1401 relates to the length of time a work-eligible, able-bodied adult may receive cash assistance under TANF. The bill was designed to help put able-bodied Arkansans back to work and reduce the cycle of generational welfare. Moving Arkansans from welfare to work helps individuals achieve self-sufficiency and independence.”

State Rep. Rebecca Burkes

For February, Arkansas had a 3.2% or around 43,000 unemployed residents according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Representative Burkes said Act 266 only impacts able-bodied adults. It does not impact child-only cases where there are no work-eligible adults in the household.