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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Block Grant: An Introduction

Gene Falk
Specialist in Social Policy

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant provides grants to states, Indian tribes, and territories for a wide range of benefits, services, and activities that address economic and social disadvantage for families with children. TANF is best known for funding state cash welfare programs for needy families with children, and it was created in the 1996 welfare reform law. However, TANF is not synonymous with cash welfare. In FY2012, only 28.6% of federal and state TANF dollars were for cash welfare. TANF also funds child care; programs that address child abuse and neglect; various early childhood initiatives, including prekindergarten programs; earnings supplements for workers in low-income families; emergency and short-term aid; pregnancy prevention programs; responsible fatherhood programs; and initiatives to encourage healthy marriages.

The bulk of federal TANF funding is in a fixed block grant, which has been set at $16.5 billion since FY1997. The basic block grant is not adjusted for inflation, or for changes in the circumstances of a state such as its cash welfare caseload, population, or number of children in poverty. States are also required to spend a specified minimum of $10.4 billion in state funds on TANF-related activities and populations. This amount also has not changed since FY1997.

TANF cash welfare programs today reflect a long history (going back to the early 1900s) and much controversy. States set their own cash welfare benefit levels. In 2011, cash benefits in all states represented a fraction of poverty-level income. In New York, the state with the highest benefit among the 48 contiguous states, the maximum monthly TANF cash benefit for a family of three was $753, which translates to 49% of poverty-level income. In contrast, Mississippi paid a monthly cash benefit for a family of three of $170 (11% of poverty-level income). Families with adult recipients (and certain nonrecipient parents) come under work participation rules. Federally funded aid is also time-limited for such families.

The cash welfare caseload has declined dramatically from its pre-welfare-reform high of 5.1 million families in 1994 to 1.7 million families in July 2008. The cash welfare caseload increased with the economic slump associated with the 2007-2009 recession, to a peak of 2.0 million families in December 2010. In March 2013, the cash welfare caseload stood at 1.8 million families. The cash welfare caseload has traditionally consisted of families headed by a nonworking parent, usually a single mother. However, in FY2010, less than half of the TANF cash caseload fit this description. The TANF cash caseload is very diverse, with more than half the caseload having different characteristics than the historical traditional cash welfare family.

TANF is not a program per se, but a flexible funding stream used to provide a wide range of benefits and services that address the effects of, and the root causes of, disadvantage among families with children. TANF is currently funded through January 15, 2014. Decisions on extending TANF funding further will be made in the context of both the lingering effects of the 2007-2009 recession and longer trends that were evident even before the recession, which showed an increasing percentage of children living in poverty and born into circumstances associated with economic disadvantage.

Date of Report: October 23, 2013
Number of Pages: 21
Order Number: R40946
Price: $29.95

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs: FY2014 Budget and Appropriations

Susan B. Epstein
Specialist in Foreign Policy

Marian Leonardo Lawson
Specialist in Foreign Assistance Policy

Alex Tiersky
Analyst in Foreign Affairs

On April 10, 2013, the Obama Administration submitted to Congress its budget request for FY2014. The request for State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs totals $51.84 billion, which is about 0.8% below the FY2013 post-sequester estimated funding level of $52.24 billion. Within this total, $3.81 billion is designated as Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding, which is 68% below FY2013 estimated OCO funding of $11.91 billion. Of the total request, $16.88 billion is for State Department Operations and related agencies, a 4.5% decline from the FY2013 funding estimate. About $35.1 billion is for Foreign Operations, a 1.6% increase from the FY2013 estimate. This report provides a brief overview of the FY2014 State Department, Foreign Operations and Related Programs funding request, as well as top-line analysis of pending House and Senate State-Foreign Operations appropriations proposals. It does not provide information or analysis on specific provisions in the House and Senate legislation.

A table in the Appendix provides side-by-side account-level funding data for FY2012, FY2013, the FY2014 request, and the pending FY2014 House and Senate proposals. The FY2013 funding data used as a point of comparison throughout this report represent post-sequestration estimates provided by the Department of State and reflect across-the-board rescissions. These data are not yet available for all accounts, or for country allocations. The funding table in the Appendix will be updated as more information becomes available.

Date of Report: October 7, 2013
Number of Pages: 31
Order Number: R43043
Price: $29.95

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Friday, October 25, 2013

The Debt Limit: History and Recent Increases

D. Andrew Austin
Analyst in Economic Policy

Mindy R. Levit
Analyst in Public Finance

Total federal debt can increase in two ways. First, debt increases when the government sells debt to the public to finance budget deficits and acquire the financial resources needed to meet its obligations. This increases debt held by the public. Second, debt increases when the federal government issues debt to certain government accounts, such as the Social Security, Medicare, and Transportation trust funds, in exchange for their reported surpluses. This increases debt held by government accounts. The sum of debt held by the public and debt held by government accounts is the total federal debt. Surpluses reduce debt held by the public, while deficits raise it.

On August 2, 2011, President Obama signed the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA; S. 365; P.L. 112-25), after an extended debt limit episode. The federal debt had reached its legal limit on May 16, 2011, prompting then Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to declare a debt issuance suspension period, allowing certain extraordinary measures to extend Treasury’s borrowing capacity. The BCA included provisions aimed at deficit reduction and allowing the debt limit to rise between $2,100 billion and $2,400 billion in three stages, the latter two subject to congressional disapproval. Once the BCA was enacted, a presidential certification triggered a $400 billion increase, raising the debt limit to $14,694 billion, and a second $500 billion increase on September 22, 2011, as a disapproval measure (H.J.Res. 77) only passed the House. A January 12, 2012, presidential certification triggered a third, $1.2 trillion increase on January 28, 2012, although the House passed a disapproval measure. Federal debt reached its limit on December 31, 2012, and extraordinary measures were then used to allow payment of government obligations until February 4, 2013, when H.R. 325, which suspended the debt limit until May 19, 2013, was signed into law (P.L. 113-3). As of May 19, the debt limit was set at $16,699 billion and extraordinary measures were again employed. On September 25, Treasury Secretary Lew notified

Congress that the government would exhaust its borrowing capacity around October 17. The U.S. Treasury would then have a cash balance of only $30 billion. Independent analysts estimate that balance would last until about the end of October or very early November. Congress has always restricted federal debt. The Second Liberty Bond Act of 1917 included an aggregate limit on federal debt as well as limits on specific debt issues. Through the 1920s and 1930s, Congress altered the form of those restrictions to give the U.S. Treasury more flexibility in debt management and to allow modernization of federal financing. In 1939, a general limit was placed on federal debt.

Congress, aside from two measures noted above, has modified the debt limit 10 times since 2001, due to persistent deficits and additions to federal trust funds. Congress raised the limit in June 2002, May 2003, November 2004, March 2006, and September 2007. The 2007-2008 fiscal crisis and subsequent economic slowdown led to sharply higher deficits in recent years, which led to a series of debt limit increases. The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (H.R. 3221), signed into law (P.L. 110-289) on July 30, 2008, included a debt limit increase. The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (H.R. 1424), signed into law on October 3 (P.L. 110-343), raised the debt limit again. The debt limit rose a third time in less than a year to $12,104 billion with the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 on February 13, 2009 (ARRA; H.R. 1), which was signed into law on February 17, 2009 (P.L. 111-5). Following that measure, the debt limit was subsequently increased by $290 billion to $12,394 billion (P.L. 111- 123) in a stand-alone debt limit bill on December 28, 2009, and by $1.9 trillion to $14,294 billion on February 12, 2010 (P.L. 111-139), as part of a package that also contained the Statutory Pay- As-You-Go Act of 2010. This report will be updated as events warrant.

Date of Report: October 15, 2013
Number of Pages: 45
Order Number: RL31967
Price: $29.95

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