Monday, December 12, 2005

All I Want for Christmas....

It's the race to recess for Congress. They have a lot yet to do and want to go home on the 16th. (Welcome to my world, but that's another post for another time.) And before they leave, they really ought to pass a budget.

We've talked about this before. The House version of the budget, in particular, has provisions that would devastate low-income families. The Senate's version wins no prizes for high moral fiber, but at least it's less bad than the House version. You know about the proposed cuts to food stamps, health care, and student loans, but there's more.

  • proposed cuts to foster care amount to $1.3 billion over 10 years and primarily apply to low-income families, particularly extended family members who have taken in abused, neglected, or abandoned children from their own families.
  • TANF work requirements have doubled for single-parents with children under 6 -from 20 hours per week to 40. Naturally, this increased work requirement comes without a corresponding increase in subsidized child-care. There's an "on the books" increase in funding for child-care, but given the enhanced work requirements, the end result will be 330,000 fewer children receiving subsidized child care.
  • And because that wasn't insulting enough, I suppose, the House has also proposed cutting child support enforcement, to the tune of $16 billion over the next ten years. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that this decision would result in $24 billion of uncollected child support payments.

Not to put too fine a point on it, here's what we have. A single mother with a child under 6 must work 40 hours a week. (By the way, I don't work 40 hours a week. Well, that's not true. I do. But full-time is actually defined to be 37.5, which is the same for my husband. In fact, I'll bet that's pretty common.) So, the single mom probably has to have 2 jobs to make the 40 hour requirement.

There's no more money for subsidized child-care, so maybe her mother takes in the child. (Because if somebody doesn't, we're going to put the kid in foster care as a neglected child.) But there's no money to support the grandmother for providing this service, either.

And, we aren't going to have the money to go after the absentee parent (and by definition there is one, or the person wouldn't be eligible for TANF in the first place), because child support enforcement has been cut.

So, she'll keep TANF, work two jobs, have her child in a precarious situation, and the father of the child will get off without paying a cent. Or, she'll get cut from TANF, still have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, have her child in a precarious situation, and have no access to child support enforcement.

I'm certainly glad the federal government is on the case.

Seriously... do we need more information to teach us that budgets are moral documents? People in this kind of no-win situation don't have the time or the energy to advocate politically. Please write to your Representative to suggest that for Christmas you would like a moral budget -one that doesn't place the most vulnerable citizens in no-win situations and then demonize them for not winning. Surely, we can do better than that.

By the way, the numbers came from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

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