Poverty is a big problem in the state of Texas, with a poverty rate over 17 percent. Although federal aid is available, such as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF) program, that doesn’t mean those who qualify are actually going to receive the benefits. A shrinking state budget and stricter qualifications have left thousands of residents who qualify out in the cold to fend for themselves.
Under TANF cash assistance guidelines, a qualifying single parent or caretaker with two children can receive $188 each month. But more and more qualifying applicants are being rejected and don’t know why. In Texas, there are a large number of caretakers who are raising their grandchildren in their homes. One woman’s application for benefits was rejected because she made $7 per month more than the income limit. Others who are clearly within the requirements are also being denied benefits.
One of the problems seems to be high turnover among TANF employees, many of whom do not know the welfare rules, how to apply them, and how to offer other programs that applicants might qualify for. In addition, many feel the increasingly strict application rules and arbitrary administration of those rules may indicate that TANF money is shrinking and being applied to other programs like Child Protective Services, to help cover costs at facilities like mental health state hospitals that also serve middle- and upper-income Texans.
Low income families want answers
Christine Mann, a Health and Human Services Commission spokeswoman, has stated that agency policy prohibits denials for kinship caregivers. So, grandparents raising grandchildren as their caregiver should qualify, but an increasing number of these caretakers are frustrated that they are being denied benefits, even though they qualify.
The caretakers are not complaining about their responsibility; one is the legal guardian of 12 of her grandchildren as well as her own 4 adopted children. They are not even complaining that $188 a month doesn’t go very far with this many children. They just want answers as to why they cannot get benefits.