H.R. 3659: Welfare Integrity and Data Improvement Act

H.R. 3659

Welfare Integrity and Data Improvement Act

Date
December 15, 2011 (112th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

On Thursday, December 15, 2011, the House is scheduled to consider, H.R. 3659, the Welfare Integrity and Data Improvement Act, under a suspension of the rules.  The bill was introduced on December 14, 2011, by Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN) and referred to the committee on Ways and Means.

Bill Summary

The bill would extend the authorization of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) state block grant program at current level of $16.5 billion annually, through September 30, 2012.  In addition, the bill would improve program administration by standardizing data elements to improve integrity and collaboration.  The legislation would also prohibit welfare funds from being used in strip clubs, liquor stores, and casinos by blocking welfare EBT cards from working in ATMs there.

The bill would standardize data elements to improve integrity and collaboration by requiring standardized data and Department of Health and Human Services coordination of exchanges across state TANF programs. The language in the bill is identical to language in the Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act that became law earlier this year (H.R. 2883), which required standardization of child welfare data and is a continuation of efforts to standardize human services program data to allow for better sharing of information as well as to improve understanding of how individuals interact with multiple welfare programs.

Finally, the legislation would prohibit welfare funds from being accessed in strip clubs, liquor stores, and casinos by blocking welfare EBT cards from working in ATMs in those locations. The bill would penalize states that do not enforce this provision and report their efforts to the Department of Health and Human Services within two years of enactment.

Background

In 1996, President Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, a largely Republican bill that overhauled the federal welfare program.  The legislation replaced the entitlement program known as Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) with a block grant program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).  The passage of TANF changed the way that federal cash benefits are given to needy people in the U.S. by requiring welfare recipients to engage in a minimum amount of monthly work activity.

The bulk of federal TANF funding is in a basic block grant to states that totals $16.5 billion per year. States are also required to expend a certain amount of their own funds on TANF-related programs, under what is called a maintenance of effort (MOE) requirement, equal to a total minimum of $10.4 billion per year.

Cost

A CBO score for H.R. 3659 was not available as of press time.  The bill would authorize the TANF program at the current annual level of $16.5 billion.