RD91 - Review of Virginia’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program

Executive Summary:
During the 2016 General Assembly Session, Senator Favola introduced Senate Joint Resolution 95. The resolution directed the Commission on Youth to evaluate the Department of Social Services' administration of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and identify the amount of and reasoning for unused TANF funds; determine whether TANF funds are being used for the intended purposes of the TANF program or whether such funds are being diverted to other programs or non-TANF purposes; determine whether and how TANF funds can be better used to stabilize families economically, help provide educational opportunities, and provide parenting classes and identify other support services that could be made available through TANF funding to strengthen families; and consult with all relevant stakeholders. The House Committee on Rules reviewed this legislation and laid it on the table. The House Committee on Rules requested the Commission on Youth to study the provisions set forth in the legislation and to report findings and recommendations prior to the 2017 General Assembly session.

The Commission on Youth developed a study plan to review the TANF program. After presentations of the findings and recommendations at the Commission’s September 20 and October 20, 2016 meetings, and receipt of public comment, the Commission on Youth approved the following recommendations:

Recommendation 1
Request the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS), with input from the Virginia Housing Development Authority, local housing authorities, and other impacted stakeholders, evaluate the feasibility of establishing a TANF-funded emergency program to assist TANF families and families that received TANF support in the previous 12 months who require assistance paying for security deposits, utility deposits, and/or overdue rent to secure/retain affordable housing.

Recommendation 2
Support the VDSS efforts to include a component within the Virginia Case Management System that allows the seamless transition of the TANF child care subsidy from one local department of social services (LDSS) to another LDSS.

Recommendation 3
Introduce legislation/budget amendment to extend transitional services available to Virginia’s VIEW recipients from 12 months up to 24 months when those recipients are enrolled in an accredited post-secondary program and in the process of obtaining an industry-recognized license or certificate, associate’s degree or other college certification. VDSS will establish policies for the extension of transitional services that are consistent with current VIEW policies. Virginia’s TANF funds appropriated for expanded/discretionary services may be utilized to fund this expansion.

Recommendation 4
Request the VDSS, in conjunction with the Virginia League of Social Services’ (VLSEE) TANF/Employment Services Committee, review Virginia’s temporary medical exemption condition policies for VIEW cases. This review will include recommendations for improving Virginia’s existing temporary medical condition exemption determination and re-evaluation policies with focus on the goal of expeditiously transitioning TANF’s medically exempt cases to VIEW or facilitating their application to appropriate disability benefits programs. VDSS and the VLSSE’s TANF/Employment Service Committee will report findings and recommendations to the Commission on Youth prior to the 2018 General Assembly Session.

Recommendation 5
Request the VDSS to evaluate the feasibility of mandating training for LDSS workers who work with TANF recipients which incorporates best practices in working with TANF recipients and helping them achieve self-sufficiency.

Recommendation 6
Support the General Assembly’s efforts that ensure that Virginia’s TANF program is adequately funded and ensure that the primary purposes of TANF are maintained.