Kenyatta aims to modernize TANF program on 25th anniversary in new bill

HARRISBURG, Aug. 20 – On the 25th anniversary of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Phila., announced that he will introduce legislation this fall that would modernize the TANF program by increasing the monthly benefit amount to bring families up to 50% of the federal poverty level and out of deep poverty.

By requiring that the benefits undergo an annual cost-of-living increase to keep pace with inflation, Kenyatta’s bill would ensure benefits continue to be effective at providing financial stability to the roughly 68,500 Pennsylvania families and children receiving cash assistance -- something he said would be a serious life-improving measure for families and their children’s futures.

“Eradicating poverty is the moral and economic issue of our generation. No one, especially Pennsylvania’s children, should live in deep poverty, which has long-term effects on their health and well-being for their entire lives,” Kenyatta said. “TANF has served as a lifeline for so many families and children in need for a quarter of a century. As the cost of living increases, the monthly payments from TANF are ineffective at fulfilling the needs of Pennsylvanians relying on it to survive. I urge my colleagues in joining me in ensuring this lifeline meets the moment.”

Kenyatta pointed to a report released this week from The Meet Need Campaign that found that in 1990, Pennsylvania’s benefit of $403 covered 43% of the federal poverty level, but in 2020 the same benefit covered a mere 22%. Furthermore, when accounting for inflation in this period, the TANF benefit has decreased in spending power by more than 50%.

State Sen. Katie Muth plans on introducing companion legislation to Kenyatta’s bill in the state Senate.