Sunday, August 1, 2010

What was Mayor Fenty thinking using $8 million in TANF funds for SYEP? (And the August 2 Council RT)

At-large CM Michael Brown, chair of the Committee on Housing and Workforce Development has scheduled an oversight roundtable on the FY 2010 Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) for August 2 at 10:00 am.   According to the press release, DOES Director Joseph Walsh and staff from the Office of the Chief Financial Officer will represent the government.   Parents and young people will also testify.

Missing from the witness list, of course, is Clarence Carter, the Director of the Department of Human Services, and the human services staffers in the Office of the City Administrator.   I'm not suggesting there are not other issues of import.   But I think using $8.4 million in TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, welfare) funds to extend the program demands a public discussion by elected and appointed officials, especially when the District's welfare program is not operating optimally.

The Department of Human Services, to its credit, sought public input for recommendations to improve the TANF Employment Program.   DCFPI and the Legal Aid Society of DC among nearly 30 others compiled a comprehensive, well-grounded, experience-based, and rationale plan for improving the TANF employment component.   It is unclear how the city can improve TANF services when more than $8 million has been transferred from this basic subsistence and moving-adults-and-families-to-self sufficiency-program to SYEP.

From the letter to DHS's Carter on June 25:

As you begin to plan the redesign, we, the undersigned groups, would like to share our recommendations for ensuring that more TANF families receive individualized services tailored to their unique needs.   Our vision for an improved TANF program includes the following basic principles:
  • The foundation of a successful TANF program is an individualized assessment of the strengths and needs of each TANF recipient.
  • Once assessments are completed, the District must ensure that there are a range of services that recipients can access.
  • Recipients should be motivated to participate in the TANF program because it meets their needs and shows a path to financial security, not because of the threat of termination of benefits.
  • Terminating benefits to families who do not, or cannot, comply with TANF requirements is not an effective way to motivate families to participate in work activities.
  • The District should design a program that will improve outcomes for recipients and allow more of them to achieve self-sufficiency despite the limited flexibility of federal law and budgetary pressures.

Will this roundtable have any impact on the Fenty Administration's insistence on these funding decisions shenanigans?   No.   But taking this issue to candidate fora and debates will make it known that the public is concerned and considering this and other funny business in the voting booth.

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