On September 15, the Senate approved, by unanimous consent, a bill (H.R. 3672) to extend the 1996 welfare reform law (P.L. 104-193) through December 31, 2005. H.R. 3672 also provides additional funding under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program for the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, and will reimburse states for TANF benefits provided to families who relocated to those states as a result of Hurricane Katrina. The House approved the measure on September 8 (see The Source, 9/9/05). It will now go to the White House for President Bush’s signature.
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) expressed her concern that the bill “limits the use of [TANF] funds for nonrecurring, short-term benefits to persons displaced by this disaster. I am afraid that this narrow definition of eligibility will stand in the way of people in need getting the support they deserve…In addition, it should be noted that while the House bill contemplates that some families affected by Hurricane Katrina will need some short-term benefit that should be considered differently from regular welfare, it does not extend eligibility for these emergency benefits to all families in the affected States. I believe that we should extend this benefit to all families in need. I am pleased to note that the Grassley-Baucus welfare proposal would extend eligibility of ‘Hurricane Katrina Emergency TANF Benefits’ for over a year to affected families in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama regardless of their circumstances.”
Addressing her concerns, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) stated, “While I think that the House-passed bill represents a good faith effort on behalf of the House, I agree that it does not go far enough and that the delegations of the affected States should have been consulted as this bill was assembled. The collaborative process that we relied on with Senators from States directly affected by Hurricane Katrina has been invaluable as we have worked to assemble the disaster relief package that Senator Baucus (D-MT) and I announced yesterday. I also recognize that my colleagues are concerned that the Senate’s position on this issue be appropriately represented in a conference with the House [on a larger disaster relief measure to be considered later this year]. I want to assure my colleagues these welfare provisions will be addressed during a conference with the House and that the Senate’s position on these welfare provisions will be vigorously represented.”