SALT Legislative Recommendations for 2018

Social Action Linking Together, or SALT, has over 1,200 members supporting SALT’s goal to help shape social policy that advances the common good and supports human services in Virginia.

We urge your support for:

1. SNAP Broad Based Eligibility
 
Because SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits are fully federally funded, abolishing the asset limit for SNAP is of NO cost for the state. Also, this would reduce administration costs.  

Virginia may be the only state to have eliminated the asset limit under TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) but not SNAP.  

Virginia eliminated the asset test for TANF in 2006.  For SNAP, there is a countable resource limit of $3,250 for households with at least one member who is disabled or who is age 60 or older.  For other households the limit is $2,250. Vehicles are exempt.
 
While the $2,250 amount for Virginia may seem to be a reasonable asset test/limit for SNAP benefit receipt, it is impractically low, especially if someone requires a car to find and keep a job.

Therefore, because SNAP is a federally funded program, requiring no state general funds,making the assets limit test more uniform is a common sense approach.

“Click here to view: Food Stamps – Abolish Assets Limit-- Fact Sheet"


2. Lifting the Life-time Ban on Food Stamps.   
 
SALT advocates are very grateful to Delegate Jim Dillard (R) for patroning HB 1761, “A Bill to amend the Code of Virginia by adding a section numbered 63.2-607.1, relating to food stamp, drug-related felonies for possession.”   Delegate Dillard brings the initiative on prisoner reentry to center stage in Virginia, an initiative supported by the Second Chance Act.

Voting for a modified opt-out for “distribution” as well as “possession” puts Virginia with a majority of other states.  The ban is an impediment to successful reintegration of former offenders back into society.

“Click here to view: Food Stamp Fact Sheet for Lifting the Ban"  
 
3. Another Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Increase

A TANF increase is clearly a fairness issue.  Virginia enacted only two TANF benefit increases since 1985---one 2.5% in January 2016 patroned by Sen. Favola and a second increase of 2.5% in July 2016, for a 5% total. A family of three currently receives a benefit of about one-fifth of the federal poverty level. See attached for updated Standards of Assistance.

Virginia should bring TANF benefits up to a minimum poverty line—including sufficient food, clothing and shelter for those in poverty---before TANF money can be used for any other programs. In order to achieve this objective, Virginia should increase the benefit levels for TANF, bringing Virginia, over the next two year, from its present rank of 42nd to the middle ranking among states. To move Virginia to the middle ranking among states, a 10% increase each year over the next 2 years would be required. Please consider and let us know what you are willing do.

Click here to view "THE CASE FOR A TANF BENEFIT INCREASE Fact Sheet"  

4. Medicaid Expansion

SALT supports the extension of Medicaid healthcare coverage for 400,000 low income, uninsured Virginians, and the $2 billion/year of federal funding to pay 100% of the cost for the first 3 years. In the 4th year and beyond, Virginia pays 10 percent of the cost and the Federal government continues paying 90 percent of the cost of this program. We need a Special Session of the Virginia General Assembly to Expand Medicaid and Close the Coverage Gap/

Click here to sign this petition by SALT to Governor McAuliffe and Virginia Legislators

5. Oppose Medicaid Block Grant - the Problem with All Social Services Block Grants

History shows that when social programs are merged into (or created as) broad block grants, funding typically contracts — often sharply — in subsequent years and decades, with the reductions growing over time.  In the study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a study evaluating the current and historic funding for all 13 of the major housing, health, and social services block-grant programs created in recent decades, it was found that funding for 11 of the 13 programs has shrunk since their inception.

Click here to view: Block Grant Fact Sheet – Medicaid


6. Virginia needs to strengthen its support for the idea that “work pays.”
 

Virginia is one of the few states that has an interrupted eligibility period after two years of receiving TANF.  Virginia should provide for exceptions to the two-year time limit for TANF recipients who have “played by the rules” but are unable to find or retain employment through no fault of their own. Also, to advance the goal of independence, exceptions are needed for those who require more time to complete apprenticeships, unsubsidized job training programs, subsidized on- the-job training or vocational education for job entry qualifications.

Additionally, Virginia should consider eliminating the eligibility interruption.  The current modus operandi is counter-productive; the elimination would expedite a family’s ability to get off the system and stay off.  It’s time to make this change.
 
7. Virginia TANF Scholarship Pilot Project Savings Plan

Virginia Scholarship Saving Plan - Transfer portion of unspent TANF monies to a TANF College Savings Pilot Plan for children who are drug free and make above average grades with parents who are drug free, become employed, and are no longer collecting TANF benefits.  Children must meet Department of Social Services (DSS) criteria for this tuition assistance intended to help break the generational cycle of poverty.

Click here to view "TANF Scholarship Pilot Project Savings Plan -- Fact Sheet"


8. Reform Locality Groupings for TANF Program

The Board of Social Services should combine Groups I and II for the purposes of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash benefits, and use the Group II rates for the new group. This budget amendment provides $3.0 million each year from the TANF block grant to reorganize the three locality groupings into only two. Groups I and II would be combined and the rates in Group II would apply to everyone in the group, resulting in an increase in the TANF cash assistance payments.


9. Kinship Guardianship Assistance program

Creates the Kinship Guardianship Assistance program (the program) to facilitate child placements with relatives and ensure permanency for children for whom adoption or being returned home are not appropriate permanency options. The bill sets forth eligibility criteria for the program, payment allowances to kinship guardians, and requirements for kinship guardianship assistance agreements. The bill also requires the Board of Social Services to promulgate regulations for the program.

This bill is not to increase kinship care funds but is a bill to subsidize relatives w custody agreements to get foster care payments.  In these cases, the child must be at least 12 years of age or older.  Foster care payments go up on a regular basis.  However, the cohort benefiting from this bill must go through the foster care training and serve as foster parents for at least six months.

Click here to view KINSHIP CARE FACT SHEET

Click here to view Kinship Care is Better - Fact Sheet

Click here to view FOSTER CARE

 

SALT LEGISLATIVE PROPOSALS--2016 (Ongoing)

Social Action Linking Together, or SALT, has over 1,200 members supporting SALT’s goal to help shape social policy that advances the common good and supports human services in Virginia.

We urge your support for:

SALT Priority #1:  End Supplantation of Federal TANF Dollars - Virginia uses Federal TANF funds to replace previous State spending for low-income families, contrary to the intent of TANF.  Virginia must maximize the resources available to serve low-income children and families, and ensure that Federal TANF funds augment, not supplant, existing State and local spending.

Click here to view "Supplantation Recommendations VA Fact Sheet-2015"

SALT Priority #2: Rescind the Federal Lifetime Ban on TANF - SALT supports ending the Federal lifetime ban on TANF welfare benefits for ex-offenders convicted of felony drug crimes. This ban imposes a life sentence (or lifetime penalty) after prison time has been served. It penalizes children of drug felons (not only the offender), and defeats re-entry efforts and family reintegration. SALT proposes using the TANF caseload decrease as funding justification for codifying the opt-out of punitive Federal "tough on crime" legislation from another era (1996).

Click here to view "State Opt Out of Federal TANF Ban for Former Drug Offenders Fact Sheet - 2015"

SALT Priority #3: Ban the Box - Formerly incarcerated individuals shouldn’t face a life sentence of no job prospects and no opportunities to better themselves just because they have served time in prison. “Ban the Box” laws will help former offenders to get back on their feet, contribute to their communities and keep one offense from becoming a life-long barrier to self-improvement.

Click here to view "Ban the Box Fact Sheet--2015"

SALT Priority #4: Make VA's EITC Refundable - We are advocating to make Virginia's Earned Income Credit (EIC) refundable to help working families keep working and to keep more of their hard-earned money and to help pay for other expenses like a car repair or a childcare bills.

Click here to view "Make VA’s EITC Refundable"

SALT Priority #5: Child Support Pass Through - Child support that is paid on behalf of poor children should benefit them, not the government. Therefore, to fix the problem, Virginia should allow up to $100 for one child and $200 for two or more children of the non-custodial parent’s child support to “Pass Through” to the TANF family for the children’s benefit. This is pro-child. (The General Assembly passed effective July 2017).

Click here to view "TANF Child Support Pass Through -- Factsheet #1
Click here to view "TANF Child Support Pass Through -- Factsheet #2

SALT Priority #6: Unfair Phone Charges for Inmate Families -
Virginia CURE and SALT are currently advocating for lower intra-state commissions.  The high phone bills discourage communication between inmates and their families, which is a factor in rehabilitation. Virginia should be in the business of advancing all that strengthens families and makes for safe communities. When we do so, the former inmates become tax-paying citizens rather than a costly burden on the rest of us.

Click here to view "TANF Phone Fairness for Incarcerated and their Families—Fact Sheet"

**************************************************

SALT Priority: Support of a Balanced Approach to Funding Safety Net Programs – SALT supports closing the Virginia’s budget shortfall by using a balanced approach, one that includes new revenue along with targeted spending cuts. We support closing and reforming loopholes, in order that social service organizations can respond to the emergency needs of the most vulnerable. Reforming costly and inefficient loopholes will preserve Virginia’s future prosperity and bring the needed balance to our current budget process.

**************************************************

The Issue:  The 1996 Welfare Reform Act introduced many changes to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), also known as Welfare.  Among them, the money for TANF has been dispersed to states in block grants, with significant flexibility given to states in how much they give in TANF benefits, and how much of the money can be diverted to programs intended to help current and former TANF recipients.  Unfortunately, with too few controls or guidelines on how TANF programming money can be used, states have grown dependent on TANF funds to balance their own budgets, using them for "everything under the sun," as Welfare Reform architect Ron Haskins put it.  This means there is too little available for needy families, those TANF is meant to benefit.

v Since 1996, Virginia's TANF caseload has decreased by 64%, but these savings have not been reinvested in the TANF program.

v Of the $158.2 million TANF block grant given to Virginia, only 25%, or $42 million, is used on benefits for families.  

v Virginia currently ranks 42nd in TANF payments.  The average family payment in Virginia is $269/month.

v Virginia families have only seen two increases in TANF since 2000.  In that time, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) has risen 100%.

Recommendations.

v Funding benefits and the VIEW program for TANF recipients must be the priority for the TANF program.  Virginia should be required to bring benefits up to the minimum poverty line before money can be used for other programs.

v Surplus funds should be given to programs in a targeted manner, and steps should be taken to ensure that these are given to programs that specifically serve current and recent TANF recipients.

v Funds dispersed through TANF programming grants should be dispersed through a competitive process.  Currently, they are dispersed based on the discretion of the General Assembly, leading to critical gaps in program and geographic needs.

If you have any questions or would like further information, please contact John Horejsi, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.\"">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

**************************************************

                         2014 GENERAL ASSEMBLY SESSION PRIORITIES

Social Action Linking Together, (SALT)--and its 1,000 advocates for faith-based social justice have a number of initiatives related to human services and encourages funding of the following initiatives in the 2012 budget. Together these initiatives address critical issues of poverty and homelessness in Virginia.

Taken together, these initiatives provide a real solution for low-income Virginians, both those who need temporary assistance while moving to work and those who have jobs but whose wages are insufficient to pay for housing. In fact, people with jobs make up the majority in homeless shelters across the State. As a result, shelter stays are longer, and more and more people are being turned away from shelters that are filled with Virginia’s working poor.

SALT advocates urge your full support of our SALT legislative proposals by including them in the 2010 budget.  For more information contact SALT Coordinator John Horejsi at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.\"">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

**************************************************

**See "Cost of Living Charts" below.  

**************************************************

Investing in Human Services

During the state's fiscal crisis of the past several years, the federal TANF block grant was used as an informal “rainy day fund” to support programs that had previously been funded with state general fund dollars. As Virginia’s fiscal crisis has now eased, a portion of increased state revenue is being dedicated to restoring State General Fund support for these programs so that federal TANF funds can be used for their intended purpose---namely, to provide a safety net for poor children and to move families from welfare to economic self-sufficiency.

**************************************************

**Cost of Living Adjustment Charts

The TANF caseload in Virginia has been reduced by 50 percent since the start of Welfare Reform in 1995 while Federal funding has remained constant. Thanks to this dramatic caseload reduction, Virginia should have sufficient Federal TANF funds that could be used to pay for this modest benefit increase.

Image11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

**************************************************

SALT Success!

Virginia Income Credit Coalition Mini-Grants

Out of this appropriation, $185,000 the first year and $185,000 the second year shall be provided to the Virginia Community Action Partnership to support the Virginia Earned Income Tax Coalition and provide grants to local organizations to provide outreach, education and tax preparation services to citizens who may be eligible for the federal Earned Income Tax Credit. The Virginia Community Action Partnership shall report on its efforts to expand the number of Virginians who are able to claim the federal EITC, including the number of individuals identified who could benefit from the credit, the number of individuals counseled on the availability of the federal EITC, and the number of individuals assisted with tax preparation to claim the federal EITC. This report shall be provided to the Governor and the Chairmen of the House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees and the Chairman of the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission by December 1 each year."

**************************************************

Rental Assistance

Select "Rental Assistance" at left-most column on this page or Visit the Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness website at http://www.vceh.org/.  

**************************************************

Striving for Family Stability Through TANF

Family stability is a primary goal of the TANF program.  Social Action Linking Together (SALT) is requesting a 10% increase in TANF payments to parents and other kinship/relative caregivers of children in Virginia.  Current TANF payments are inadequate to support families with children.  As a result, children who might be cared for within their extended families often must be placed-at greater expense and with greater trauma to the child and his or her family-in non-relative foster care.

Kinship/Relative Care:  A Case Study

A growing number of children in Virginia are being raised by kinship/relative caregivers-relatives other than their biological parents.  In most cases, kinship/relative care is preferable to other foster care situations, because the child maintains closer connection to his or her family of origin.  However, these preferred caretakers labor at a disadvantage-the TANF payments they receive are only about 30% of the payment a non-relative foster care parent would receive.

The following , is typical:

With diminished resources, we tried to use all the services available from state and county government such as TANF, Medicaid, etc. We had  thought Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF), would be a real benefit. However, we received only $310 per month for four children (about $19.50 per week per child)-not nearly enough to feed and clothe them, and take care of their other normal and special needs. The state spends far more to support children through foster care programs.

Today, we are in our early sixties, living paycheck to paycheck. We deeply love our grandchildren. But we can no longer give them all the benefits we were able to provide our own children. We can love them and teach them to be good people and to get a good education, but we and they would be better off if the support we receive through TANF were increased.

Because Relative and especially grand parent care givers love their children and grandchildren enough to step in during a time of a crisis -and for the duration-their own financial stability is put at risk, and their dreams for retirement are deferred, perhaps forever.  SALT believes that relative families-as well as those parents struggling to care for their own children-deserve greater support, and so requests an indexing increase in TANF payments to families in need.

**************************************************

Kinship Care is Better

A recently published study in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine reports on the impact of kinship care on the behavioral well-being for children in out-of-home-care. The study was conducted over a three year time period and involved 1309 children. The children included those in kinship and foster care. The conclusions of the study were that children placed into kinship care had fewer behavioral problems three years after placement as opposed to those placed in foster care.  The study authors concluded these results support efforts to maximize placement of children with willing and available kin when they enter out-of-home care.

The complete journal article can be viewed on line at

 http://archpedi.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/162/6/550?eaf

For a simpler version, see the Science News summary at:

http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/32805/title/Fostering_gains

**************************************************

Voices of Fairfax:  Letters to the Editor:


Foster Care Disparities

Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) makes it possible for children to be provided for in their homes or the homes of relatives, despite family poverty.  Relatives, especially grandparents, make tremendous sacrifices to care for these children, and they receive little support.  Some older relatives and grandparents have to postpone retirement and move to a bigger house or move out of retirement communities to provide for these children.  I know: I grew up in relative care.  The disparity in benefits is amazing.  An entire TANF family of three receives less than a half as much as a single foster-care program child.  Are some children worth less just because they are poor, or are lucky enough to have a relative who cares?  We hope you will look into and make these disparities known.

John Horejsi