Child Poverty Is Rising But Children Getting TANF Benefits Is Declining

Jul 5, 2018

Some fear that the social safety net in Virginia may be crumbling.

Ever since the Clinton administration made major changes to the welfare system, the number of children living in poverty in Virginia has been rising. Meanwhile, the number of children receiving benefits has been on the decline.

Michael Cassidy at the Commonwealth Institute says that’s because Virginia hasn’t kept up with the cost of living for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. “Research shows that the economic security programs like TANF’s cash assistance result in things like long-term improvements in children’s health outcomes and academic performance and lifetime earnings,” Cassidy said.

Frank Shafroth at George Mason University says welfare is often a target for budget cuts because many people believe it’s a hand out instead of a hand up. “It is maybe pennywise but very pound foolish because children who grow up in poverty are far more likely than not to never be able to attain a sufficient education to be contributing taxpayers to Virginia’s budget,” Shafroth said.

That’s why analysts at the Commonwealth Institute are calling on policymakers to consider boosting cash assistance by using the existing balance in the program to reinvest back into families that need help the most.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.