WV TANF Misery Index is 160

Legal Momentum just released their newest TANF Misery Index based on 2012 numbers, the latest numbers available.  The TANF misery index measures how TANF is performing in alleviating poverty in families with children in the United States. Legal Momentum has been utilizing the TANF Misery Index since the beginning of the TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) program in 1996.  In 1996 the TANF Misery Index was 93, by 2012, that number had increased to 147. What this means is that in 1996 only 28% of poor families with children were not receiving TANF assistance and in 2012, 74% of poor families with children were not receiving TANF assistance nationally, In West Virginia in 2012, 81% of poor families with children did NOT receive TANF (WVWorks) assistance.  Contrary to what most conservative supporters of welfare reform believe, the rolls have not dropped due to an increase in “self-sufficiency” and the ferretting out of “welfare queens”. This drop in numbers is not reflective of a successful program or that there has been a drop in poverty in the United States, on the contrary the number of children in poverty has increased since the institution of TANF.  According to Kids Count Data in 1996, 18% of children in the United States lived in poverty, in 2012 that number had increased to 23%. Most of the growth in this number is due to the declining enrollment of families eligible for TANF participation.  With the laws that have been enacted since the change from AFDC to TANF in 1996 many families have been turned away and sanctioned from participation in the TANF program.  Also, with the 5 year lifetime limit that was imposed with the TANF program, many families have timed out of benefits and are no longer eligible no matter how financially dire their situation becomes. The current program, TANF, is not designed to be a hand up for families in need.  It is instead designed to punish families for falling on hard times and penalize children who happen to be born to poor parents.

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