ISSUE | PUBLIC ASSISTANCE
Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale's audit showing public-assistance payments to more than 2,000 recipients who had died, though concerning, also contained 25 recommendations for the state Department of Human Services to improve operations.
One of the biggest problems facing public assistance is that it is overregulated when subjected to politics.
Community Legal Services of Philadelphia recently detailed how Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is underused in Pennsylvania. TANF cases declined 32 percent between 1996 and June 2016, according to the group's report, but "the drop is far more precipitous than the decline in Pennsylvania's unemployment rate." The drop did not track with enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which increased 3 percent since July 2012.
In other words, data show the need for temporary assistance, but it isn't reaching families.
Poor families don't leave TANF because they've escaped poverty, but because it is time- and cost-prohibitive. TANF requirements also ignore child-care and transportation costs for working families. To address this, I wrote legislation to increase benefits. While the bill wouldn't fix everything, it would help families first.