Testimony on Committee Bill 6629: An Act Concerning Temporary Family Assistance

Human Services Committee
February 14, 2023
Submitted by: Stephen Monroe Tomczak, Ph.D., LMSW

On behalf of the National Association of Social Workers, CT Chapter representing over 2,300 members statewide, we thank the Human Services Committee for raising this bill and offer this testimony in strong support of Committee Bill 6629. NASW/CT has a long history of supporting positive TANF reforms aimed at providing improvements in the economic circumstances of TANF households.

The proposed reforms to the Temporary Family Assistance (TFA) program, Connecticut’s TANF program, accomplish some important objectives, including extending the time limit for temporary family assistance to sixty months and gradually reducing benefits for newly employed beneficiaries to encourage employment.

These policy changes have substantial support in academic literature, and as someone who has conducted research on public assistance policies and programs for over a quarter of a century, I feel compelled as a social worker to testify in support of these needed policy changes.

Restrictive time-limit policies have been shown not only to exacerbate poverty and economic insecurity for low income families with children, they have not been associated with consistent achievement of their supposed objectives in promoting employment among families with children.1 And, there is some reason to believe that shorter time limits may produce even more deleterious effects, as they do not allow enough time for recipients to acquire necessary skills to obtain employment that provides an adequate income.2

Abrupt reductions or loss of benefits due to increased income from employment – termed in the policy literature benefit “cliffs,” – are not only harmful to the economic well-being of recipients and their families, but they also discourage work among low-income families receiving public assistance. Because the value of benefits lost often exceeds the dollar value of income gained from a job, this acts as a strong disincentive to employment. According to the Institute for Research on Poverty “smoothing benefit
cliffs can help ensure that low-income families see greater resources from working more, a potentially important issue of fairness,”3 which can also act as an incentive to seek and maintain employment. Along with policies that encourage the creation of good jobs at living wages, changes to public aid policies that lessen or eliminate the impact of benefit cliffs go a long way to ensuring a just economy.

In closing, then, we urge you to support H.B. 6629. As social workers, our Code of Ethics
obligates us to “advocate for living conditions conducive to the fulfillment of basic
human needs,”4 and it is the strong belief of our chapter that H.B. 6629 will help move
our state’s public assistance policy in this direction. Thank you for the opportunity to
testify on this legislation.

1 Pepin, G. (2020). Effects of welfare time limits. W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
2 Farrell M., Rich, S., Turner, L., Seith, D. and Bloom, D. (2008). Welfare Time Limits: An Update on State Policies, Implementation, and Effects on Families. Lewin Group and MDRC.
3 Institute for Research on Poverty (2019). Understanding benefit cliffs and marginal tax rates. Fast Focus Policy Brief, 43–2019, p. 2.
4 National Association of Social Workers (1996, rev. 2017). Code of Ethics of the National Association of
Social Workers. NASW Press. p. 29.

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