SALT supports welfare reform that helps families and that does not put children and families at risk. SALT's priorities for welfare reform are the following:

  • First, to target resources on those who are hardest to serve-particularly women with children.
  • Second, to reinvest welfare savings in those TANF recipients who are the most at risk because the time-limit clock is ticking for them.
  • Third, to emphasize education, particularly literacy and remedial education, including English as a second language.
  • Fourth, to provide training (skills training) for jobs that exist---and especially training that leads to jobs.
  • Fifth, to support programs that serve as many people as possible-all those in poverty; not just welfare recipients. The preferred approach would be "to leave no family behind."
  • Sixth, to ensure programs provide flexibility in design and provide a meaningful safety net.


SALT supports the Homeless Prevention (HIP) and Homeless Assistance Budget Amendment, because it will help to assure the success of welfare reform, which has independence as its goal; not dependence. People do not usually think of "work" and "poverty" in the same sentence; if you work, you are not supposed to be "poor." Too often, unfortunately, that is not the case. The Budget Amendment provides a needed boost to workers who are struggling to retain their independence during their transition from welfare to work---so they won't have to return to public assistance. Thus, the Budget Amendment is seeking the same improvements as welfare reform and will help realize genuine welfare reform.

SALT is seeing an increase in homelessness, and we know that most of these "new homeless" are "working people." No one is immune to homelessness. SALT asks you to keep in mind that although the economy is booming; it's not booming for the poor. When we look at who are affected, we find it is the children who are most at-risk-60 to70 percent of those served by welfare are children.

However, the fastest growing group of children in poverty is not welfare kids; but rather the children of year-round-working parents. These children need our help if they are to have a chance to become productive and self-reliant citizens.

SALT wants people to work; but a lot of people aren't making it--financially.

SALT asks for the support of the Virginia legislators for the Budget Amendment, because it represents fair and meaningful welfare reform. Effective outreach, support/assistance, and shelter need to be there when families need them; a more adequate safety net is needed.

The fact is that welfare recipients-now the working poor-want a better life for themselves and their children and we want all Virginia legislators to join SALT in helping them to achieve it.

Unlike lobbyists for business and other special interests, all we have to offer members of the General Assembly are our fact sheets, our position papers, and our commitment to help frame the issues in a moral context.

We\'re counting on our legislative friends-Delegates and Senators--to help the vulnerable poor working people of Virginia.


TANF, which stands for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, was created by the 1996 welfare reform law. It replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), which was the old nationwide welfare system. TANF is a block grant program designed to provide temporary help to recipients while they are moving from welfare to work. This paper describes the key features of TANF as they are currently being implemented in Virginia.


An eligible family can receive assistance for no more than 24 consecutive months. After that, they are ineligible for assistance for another 24 months, regardless of their circumstances. There is also a cumulative lifetime limit of 5 years under TANF. Once the 5-year limit has been reached, the family is permanently ineligible for further TANF assistance.

Within 30 days of applying for assistance, each adult family member must be working or actively pursuing employment, e.g., by seeking work or engaging in job training. In Virginia, the work component of TANF is called the Virginia Initiative for Employment Not Welfare (VIEW). The adult in a one-parent household must participate in work activities for at least 30 hours per week. Each adult in a two-parent household must participate in work activities for at least 35 hours per week. However, if a child in the household is under 18 months of age, one parent is exempt from the work requirement.


The amount of TANF assistance that a family receives depends on the size of the family, where they live, and what other income they have. A family in central Virginia consisting of a single parent with two children and no other income receives $322 per month ($3,864 per year). If the same family lived in Northern Virginia, they would receive $389 per month ($4,668 per year) because of the higher cost of living. If the parent in this typical family finds work through the VIEW program and starts earning money, the family can keep receiving TANF payments as long as the family's total income remains below the Federal poverty level, which is currently $19,530 for a family of three. For example, if the parent worked 30 hours per week at the current minimum wage of $7.215 per hour, he or she would gross $870 per month. The family's total income would therefore be $870 earned income + 322 from TANF = $1,192 per month in central Virginia ($14,304 per year), or $870 + $389 = $1,259 per month in Northern Virginia ($15,108 per year). What often happens, however, is that families choose not to receive further TANF assistance once a parent finds work, in order to keep (or "bank") as much of their 24-month or cumulative 5-year TANF eligibility as possible for future emergencies.

If this family had a third child, their TANF payments would increase by $64 per month in central Virginia ($768 per year), or $68 per month in Northern Virginia ($816 per year), unless the child was born more than 10 months after the family started receiving assistance. In the latter case, there would be no increase in TANF payments because of Virginia's "family cap" provision.


To be eligible for assistance when they first apply for TANF, our typical family of one parent and two children cannot have income in excess of $596 per month in central Virginia, or $727 per month in Northern Virginia. They also cannot have cash or savings in excess of $1,000, or a car worth more than $1,500.

If the custodial parent is receiving child support from the non-custodial parent, she or he must assign the child support payments to the State, which then collects them directly from the non-custodial parent. Under the law, the State "passed through" up to $50 per month in child support payments to the custodial parent, with no reduction in the TANF payment. In 2002 due to successful SALT advocacy efforts, Virginia becomes the first state to adopt complete child-support pass-through to the family.  SALT opposes attempts to cut the pass-through to 50%.  SALT also follows up and discovers that the new law is not being implemented.  Conversations with the Governor remedy this problem.  SALT wins praise for not only advocating but monitoring.

Only families are eligible for assistance under TANF. A "family" is defined as at least one parent and one child under 18 years of age. If a child is not living with either parent, the child's caretaker can apply for assistance for the child alone (a "child-only" case).


States receive block grants from the Federal government to cover a majority of the costs of TANF. In order to receive the full amount of Federal funding to which a State is otherwise entitled, the State must show that it is spending on activities related to TANF at least 80 percent of the amount of non-Federal funds it spent in Fiscal Year (FY) 1994 on AFDC and related programs. This maintenance of effort (MOE) requirement drops to 75 percent if the State can show that at least 50 percent of the families receiving TANF benefits are meeting the work requirements described above. If a State does not fulfill its MOE requirement, its Federal block grant is reduced, based on the amount of State underspending. Virginia's MOE level for the current fiscal year is $128 million. States may use TANF funding in any manner reasonably calculated to achieve the purposes of TANF. These purposes are to provide assistance to needy families so that children can be cared for in their own homes; to reduce dependency by promoting job preparation, work, and marriage; to prevent out-of-wedlock pregnancies; and to encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families.

In FY 1994, 74,700 Virginia families received public assistance (AFDC), at a cost to the State of $171 million. Since September 2000, when caseloads had dropped by 60 percent -- only 30,000 Virginia families receive TANF, at a cost to the State of $88 million for cash assistance. The State spends an additional $40 million on other activities supporting TANF, for a total spending level equal to the MOE requirement of $128 million. The Federal TANF block grant to Virginia is $158 million per year, bringing total TANF-related spending (State and Federal) to $281 million year.


"As a nation we need to make children and families our first priority; to invest in their future; to combat the forces--cultural, economic, and moral--which hurt children and destroy families; to manage our economy, shape our government, and direct our institutions to support and not undermine our families."

"There has been an unfortunate, unnecessary, and unreal polarization in the discussions of the best way to help families. Some emphasize the primary role of moral values and personal responsibility, the sacrifices to be made and the personal behaviors to be avoided, but they often ignore or de-emphasize the broader forces which hurt families, e.g., the impact of economics, discrimination, and antifamily policies. Others emphasize the social and economic forces that undermine families and the responsibility of government to meet human needs."


Children don’t vote and don’t contribute to political campaigns, so they need people like you and me to speak up for them.
SWChildren in Virginia face serious challenges:

  • 280,000 live in poverty
  • 148,000 have no health insurance
  • some 65,000 are reported as abused or neglected yearly
  • thousands of young children can’t attend pre-school

Remarkably, this agenda is not shared by enough members of the Virginia General Assembly.  This Should be Unacceptable!

SALT shares the belief that Every Child Matters:

  • Every child should have access to health care.
  • Every child should have a place to live and good nutrition.
  • Every child should be able to attend a quality pre-school program.
  • Every child and teen should benefit from enriching afterschool programs.
  • Every child should be protected from abuse.

These are achievable goals. To do so, we need lawmakers who believe in prioritizing children, youth and families.


Virginia's welfare reform initiative may not provide former welfare recipients with the economic independence promised by its backers, according to a report released in March by the Virginia Welfare Monitoring System. Rather than assisting low-income Virginians earn a sufficient salary to raise them out of poverty, the report forecasts welfare reform, may push many former welfare recipients deeper into poverty and force them to turn to private charities to make ends meet.

In effect, all that welfare reform will achieve is a cut in the rolls and shift people from the ranks of welfare to the ranks of the working poor.  SALT urges state leaders to adopt a series of policies that make work pay such as an expansion of children's health insurance, more affordable housing and quality child care, the EITC expansion and better jobs..