DHS Director Discusses TANF in Recent Interview
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Westra Miller, Staff Attorney

A recent Washington City Paper interview with Department of Human Services (DHS) Director David Berns draws attention to changes to the District’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.   Although the interview focuses on DHS services for the homeless, Director Berns also discusses the redesign of TANF services and the impending reductions of TANF benefits for many D.C. families.

In October, families who have received TANF benefits for 60 months or more will have their monthly benefit amount cut significantly.  However, many of the families facing these reductions have not yet received the individualized, “modernized” services that DHS is implementing.  Additionally, families at risk of a reduction may be headed by a parent who is not currently able to seek employment due a hardship or vulnerability—perhaps because the parent is a senior, is experiencing domestic violence, or is caring for a disabled family member.

Director Berns does not discuss these types of families in his interview, but legislation proposed by D.C. Council Members Jim Graham and Michael Brown that is currently pending before the D.C. Council does seek to address the needs of these vulnerable families.  Legal Aid supports Council Members Graham and Brown’s plan to use $5.6 million on Mayor Gray’s FY 2013 budget wish list to delay the October TANF benefit reductions.  Doing so will allow all TANF families to benefit from improvements to the TANF program and to get screened for appropriate social and employment services.

A vote on the Council Members Graham and Brown’s TANF Time Limit Amendment Act is planned for June 5, 2012.  We encourage D.C. residents to contact their Council Members to show their support for this important legislation.

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