Amid rising poverty rates, states allow $5.2 billion in TANF funds not to be spent

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Also: Dallas HBCU is offering incoming students a surprise bonus, and more.

States Unnecessarily Withholding $5.2 Billion in TANF Funds

States use discretionary powers to hoard nearly $5.2 billion in unspent TANF funds, ProPublica reports.

Bonnie Bridgforth, a newly single mother, was struggling to care for her family of five after her husband was imprisoned. While Bridgforth initially received state assistance while pregnant with her youngest child, the state withdrew assistance two years after she found a minimum-wage job at a local Maine gas station.

In the same year, Maine had one of the highest rates of unspent funds, at $111 million.

And although poverty rates have fluctuated due to the pandemic, TANF acceptance rates have continued to decline. In Maine, that’s partly attributed to new laws that keep families out of welfare for more than five years. The number of cases in this state rose from 13,522 in 2012 to 4,320 in 2018.

TANF request rates have declined nationally. “Many families living below the poverty line decide that the benefits provided by TANF are not worth the onerous upfront requirements to participate and stay in the program,” said LaDonna Pavetti, wellbeing expert at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “The reserves are increasing because the number of cases is decreasing.”

Next City’s Oscar Perry Abello reported on state-by-state attempts to starve TANF programs, and how that has spurred the rollout of guaranteed income programs in cities across the United States

Dallas HBCU offers incoming students a surprise bonus for family and friends

Newly admitted students at Paul Quinn College won’t enroll in college on their own, Texas Tribune says reports.

Instead, the Dallas college announced that more than 400 students from five Fort Worth high schools had the opportunity to select two families or friends to enroll with them in the fall. This initiative is part of a new admissions and recruitment program that aims to remove the pressure and burden faced by first-generation students.

Sara Goldrick-Rab, professor of higher education policy and sociology at Temple University, praised the innovative solution, telling the Tribune “[They’re] grateful that you can take a student and give them more education, but if the family doesn’t have the resources, there’s a pull home that can bring them down.

For Ke’shawn Rubell, a high school student, the program has the potential to give his family members a second chance. “My mom was working from job to job, and my brother, he was in and out of jail, so it was just me going to school,” Rubell told the Tribune. “It cost me a lot. It changed my mindset mentally, knowing that I have to make a change.

Students who received honors had a 3.0 GPA and qualified for federal financial aid. The family or friends they choose to enroll with would then pursue a bachelor’s degree through an online program or complete a short-term refresher and credentialing program called PQCx.

New York’s Newest Food Supply Bill Would Promote Food Sustainability

New York State is consider a new values-based food supply model, according to digital news magazine The River

The bill would encourage municipalities and local establishments to follow the model of Los Angeles’ Good Food Purchasing program, which encourages organizations to buy from local suppliers who prioritize sustainability and fairness, and who produce food at more great nutritional value, as long as their bids are less than 10% of the lowest bidder. (Next City has previously covered the GFPP, in our feature “Can cities ever end hunger? “)

And while the program has gained traction in New York and Buffalo in recent years, the proposed statewide legislation could be especially beneficial in a state where 98 percent of farms are family businesses.

The program would provide farmers with a number of pathways that would allow them to qualify for further consideration during the bidding process. These include adopting fair labor practices and equity provisions for minority and women-owned businesses, as well as proving they sourced at least 51% of raw materials locally. used by their business.

Learn more about the power of sourcing in this Next City ebook.

Solcyre (Sol) Burga was an Emma Bowen Foundation Fellow with Next City for the summer of 2021. Burga is completing her degree in political science and journalism at Rutgers University, intending to graduate in May 2022. As a Newark native and immigrant, she hopes to elevate the voices of underrepresented communities in her work.

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