Search results for "ECF"

17th September
written by Catherine An

Welcome to the Friday news roundup!

So headlining the news this week (or at least yesterday) are the poverty numbers. No surprises: poverty, uninsured, up in 2009.

The nation’s official poverty rate in 2009 was 14.3 percent, up from 13.2 percent in 2008. The number of people without health insurance coverage rose from 46.3 million in 2008 to 50.7 million in 2009, or an increase from 15.4 percent to 16.7 percent of the total population. You can check out the full report on the census website.

What’s that mean? Well, from our perspective, it means that there are more people at risk of experiencing homelessness. If you remember our brief on ”sustainable cost burden”, you know that more than half of poor families spend more than half their monthly income for housing (this is often termed “severe housing cost burden.”) You might also remember that severe housing cost burden is up among individuals and families doubled up.

With need so high, this is exactly the wrong time to be rising the elimination of TANF ECF. This job-creating service to the most vulnerable families is in danger of expiring at the end of the month. We’ve written about it before and there are daily stories cropping up the program’s importance. It seems that the program may be seeing rays of hope – but that doesn’t mean you should rest on your laurels. If you haven’t already (and you better have!) call your senator today.

An interesting report shows that housing problems have become the primary subject of employee-assistance calls. According to reporting from USA Today, child care had long reigned as the subject of employee assistance calls but – staring January 2010 – housing became the primary concern.

And of course, the biggest news of the week is the ending of our photo contest! Submissions are due no later than midnight today. So get in those photos! For inspiration, check out the submissions we’ve received so far in our Flickr album.

10th September
written by Catherine An

If April is the cruelest month, then September – it seems – is the TANF month

(Okay, bad joke.)

Nonetheless, it’s been all TANF, all the time.

So here’s the story: TANF is a program that helps low-income families. It provides block grants to states and the funds are used to curb child child expenses and promote work preparation and opportunities. In the face of the recession, more and more families were in need of such assistance and the federal government created the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund – an extra pot of money that could help states with up to 80 percent of increased TANF assistance requests. States and think tanks alike have reported that the emergency fund has been a lifeline for both states and the families in those states requiring aid.

But here’s where the bad news comes in. The emergency fund is set to expire on September30 of this year if it isn’t renewed by the Senate (the House has already voted for an extension).

This seemingly innocuous little welfare program has gotten a decent amount of ink in the last few weeks. It hasn’t been the firestorm set off by Quran-burning or midterm elections, but in national and local news sources alike, stories popped up like plastic whac-a-moles.

In Connecticut, the New Haven Register ran a story about the federal program’s implications in the state. The article cited an excellent report by the Center for Budget and Policy priorities in which LaDonna Pavetti (author of the report) called TANF ECF an “effective jobs program” and that eliminating it would “put more people out of work right now.” The Register noted that emergency fund employed 6,461 people in the state. In Chicago, the Public News Service warned of “thousands of jobs to disappear by the end of September,” in a city where the emergency fund contributed to 25,000 subsidized jobs through a program called “Put Illinois to Work”.

TANF ECF also made an appearance in the Huffington Post. According to the online news source, the program is responsible for creating 240,000 jobs across the country – jobs that are in danger of vanishing when the funding dries up. The article quotes House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying the program is “as positive an initiative for job creation as you can make,” noting that the House had passed reauthorization for the emergency fund. The article also quoted Christine Owens, director of the National Employment Law Project who said, “The emergency fund has tremendously helped states create new employment opportunities…If Congress fails to reauthorize the Fund, those subsidies will vanish along with the job opportunities they provide.”

The program even received global attention this week, with a piece in the International Business Times. Writer Manikandan Raman concludes that, “The failure to extend the program would eliminate tens of thousands of jobs and throw away an opportunity to create additional jobs.”

What can you do? Glad you asked! There’s a sliver of time left to persuade your senator to make a difference. The Alliance and other advocacy organizations are supporting the effort led by Sen. John Kerry (D – MA). The Senator is circulating a sign-on letter encouraging the Senate to pass the extension of the emergency fund. For more information about the effort – and to find out how you can contact YOUR senator – check out a previous post.

8th September
written by naehblog

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: we can – and must – save the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF).

And we’re not the only ones that think so. In the last few days, you may have noticed that the innocuous welfare program has received an unusual amount of ink. Stories praising the job-creating program have run in the Chicago Tribune and Huffington Post – among countless other publications.

We hate to say we told you so but we did call it. This stimulus program is making a difference where it’s needed most: offering cash assistance to low-income families, providing housing aid, and subsidizing jobs. In fact, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that the program has created 250,000 subsidized jobs for low-income parents and youth across the country.

But the program is about to come to a grinding halt. TANF ECF will expire on September 30 if Congress doesn’t act now.

We need you to tell them how.

Senator John Kerry (D-MA) is circulating a sign-on letter for his colleagues in the Senate to join. He wants them to sign the letter to urge Senate leaders to extend the ECF right away and provide a one-year, $2.5 billion extension of ECF to allow states to access additional funds and continue subsidizing jobs for low-income families and youth.

Want to know what you can do?

  • Call your senators TODAY (If you don’t know the number, you can find out by calling the Congressional Switchboard at 202-224-3121).
  • Ask to speak to the person who handles welfare issues for the senator.
  • Urge the welfare staff member to get their boss to sign onto Senator Kerry’s sign-on letter.

But act now! The deadline for senators to join the sign-on letter is next Wednesday, September 15 at noon ET.

For more information, check out previous entries on the blog and the website.

5th August
written by Catherine An

I know we’ve been harping on this on the blog all week, but we don’t want you to forget about the Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF).

As a refresher, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 created the TANF ECF. The fund can be used to reimburse states for up to 80 percent of increased spending for providing:

  • non-recurrent, short-term payments (e.g. four months of rental assistance for homeless families, security deposit and first month’s rent, utility assistance);
  • basic assistance (cash grants to low-income families); and
  • subsidized employment.

TANF ECF has made a difference for states – creating jobs and offering the assistance states may need help providing in this time of tight state budgets. Articles and blogs and policy analysis have noted the significance of this overlooked – and quickly expiring – recovery program.

We want to make sure that you fully understand the program – and then take the next step to call your senate office to tell them what you think. The Alliance has produced a number of articles and policy analyses about TANF ECF – and the importance of keeping the valuable, effective program from expiring. And there’s also information about family homelessness – TANF ECF is sometimes discussed in relationship to preventing and ending family homelessness.

If you have questions or comments about the materials there, feel free to give us a shout on Twitter, Facebook, or drop us an old fashioned email.

Thanks guys!

4th August
written by Marisa Seitz

Today’s blog about family homelessness comes from our colleague Sharon McDonald,  Senior Policy Analyst at the Alliance.

Across the country, families are downsizing their housing, doubling up with extended family or friends, moving into motels, and seeking help from homelessness prevention and shelter programs. The Recovery Act provided new funds including the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) and the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF) to help communities grapple with the increased needs of families impacted by the recession.

With so many families facing homelessness, it is critical to maximize all available resources to help families. We must connect with Members of Congress to educate them about the impact of homelessness on families and communities, and – most importantly – the role social programs are playing in meeting the needs of vulnerable individuals and families.

This includes funding for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Programs, Housing Choice Voucher Program, and the National Housing Trust Fund. It also includes advocating for an extension to the TANF ECF which is providing rental assistance to help families stay housed and subsidized employment that helps families escape poverty (see yesterday’s excellent post about action needed on the TANF ECF).

Maximizing resources also means making sure that local programs to help low-income and homeless families and children are as efficient and as effective as possible. This means evaluating whether HPRP and other resources are reaching the families they are designed to serve. Are homelessness prevention programs screening out those families most likely to become homeless because they seem unable to pay for housing independently after receiving assistance? Are rapid re-housing programs implemented broadly enough to reduce the strain on shelters and transitional housing programs and reduce the likelihood that families will be refused shelter? Are local programs coordinated around a common vision for ending family homelessness to improve access and efficiency of resources community-wide? Are stakeholders engaged in evaluating data to assess the impact of the local investments in ending homelessness and making modifications to improve performance?

Our new report Ending Family Homelessness: Lessons From Communities examines the promising strategies communities are using to end family homelessness by making the most of available resources. These promising strategies can be replicated, adapted, and refined to improve our communities’ and our nation’s responses to families facing homelessness.

For more information about family homelessness, check out the website.

Don’t forget guys, the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund is an effective, efficient program that plays a significiant role in preventing and ending family homelessness. Act now to keep it from disappearing forever.

2nd August
written by Mindy Mitchell

Today, Mindy Mitchell writes about the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund, which is set to expire on September 30, 2010.

It’s been called the “best kept secret” of the federal stimulus plan, and unless the Senate acts soon, it will be over in just a couple months, which would be devastating for families who are homeless or are just barely avoiding homelessness. It’s the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF), which the Alliance has advocated using to support homeless families since the ECF began, and which I have been exploring for almost two months now as part of my summer internship.

Because I worked directly with homeless families in my former (pre-law school) life, it’s been more than a little frustrating for me this summer to learn how easily such a good program—for homeless families, for all families who are struggling economically, and for whole communities—can fall through the legislative cracks. The TANF ECF extension was originally part of H.R. 4213, which failed to pass the Senate until it was stripped of all its elements except unemployment insurance (UI). No one seems to know now what will happen to all the other vital programs that were originally included in H.R. 4213, but the Alliance is organizing an advocacy push in hopes of getting things moving again. The stated concern of some Senators about the original legislation was the contribution to the federal deficit (which may not be warranted, btw), but now that UI has been passed on its own, the rest of these programs (including ECF and the National Housing Trust Fund) are all offset and won’t contribute to the deficit. So what’s the hold up, especially when this program is helping not just struggling families but struggling businesses?!

See, that’s the really cool thing about ECF, which CNN Money called “A stimulus program even a Republican can love”! TANF ECF can be used by states in any of three categories: basic assistance (to supplement the regular assistance programs TANF already administers), short-term, non-recurrent benefits (a wide range of preventive and supportive benefits, available even to families who aren’t already receiving TANF), and subsidized employment.

Many homeless providers are taking advantage of ECF’s short-term benefits to supplement and stretch their HPRP funds, including Utah’s The Road Home. And more and more states are taking advantage of the subsidized employment possibilities made available to them through ECF to create some 200,000 jobs, which can be used to serve families at higher income cut-offs than the regular TANF assistance program. These jobs are the real stars of the ECF show because they enable families who are homeless or are struggling economically to improve their incomes (which is an essential part of ending homelessness, of course) and they benefit local businesses and organizations that are also struggling in these tough economic times by allowing them to expand and employ more workers without expending capital that many of them don’t have right now.

It’s a win-win situation for entire communities like Perry County, TN, whose economy was devastated after its major employer, an auto parts factory, closed. And it can be a win-win situation for even more communities across the country if the Senate would only move this legislation along.

Extending TANF ECF would allow states to maintain the impressive subsidized employment programs they’ve begun and would allow states that don’t have subsidized employment programs to begin to implement them, increasing the well-being of families who are homeless and who are struggling across the country before that opportunity is “Going, Going,” and totally gone.

You can save TANF ECF. Call your Senators and ask to speak to the person who works on housing issues (you can find your Congressional office phone numbers by calling the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121). Tell them to make sure their boss works to protect TANF ECF before it’s too late.

29th June
written by Marisa Seitz

The Alliance blog has talked before about what is formally known as the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act (HR 4213), but is often called the “tax extenders bill”.

The bill would include funding for a number of programs, but there are two that interest us: the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF) and the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF).

The TANF ECF is this extra pool of money helped TANF support more families during the recession and we were looking to have it renewed so that more support would be available. For more information about the TANF ECF (and family homelessness!) check out yesterday’s blogpost.

The second is the NHTF, a program created under President Bush to create affordable housing. Unfortunately, when the program was created, no money was allocated to it (it’s pretty hard to develop affordable housing with no money, FYI). The tax extenders bill would fund (we call that “capitalize”) NHTF – and more affordable housing means fewer people experiencing homelessness.

Unfortunately, last Thursday, June 24th, the House-approved bill was shut down in the Senate, with a 57 to 41 vote (60 votes were needed to pass it). Republicans and some others claimed to have withheld support because portions of the bill remained unfunded. No timeline was set as to when the tax extenders bill would be picked back up.

All in all, this means that we don’t know if the programs we mentioned will be receiving funding or if these program that help people experiencing homelessness will be able to serve as many people as they would like.

But we’ll have another chance to make a difference around the corner. Next week, the House subcommittee in charge of the HUD budget will be marking up their FY 2011 budget. So while we’ve lost this battle (for now), we can still make a difference for people experiencing homelessness and for our communities. Stay tuned to find out how YOU can help!

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28th June
written by Marisa Seitz

When I came to the Alliance, I really did not know anything about homelessness, or those who were experiencing it. I think, like many people, my experience with people experiencing homelessness was only of those collecting change on the streets.

However, since coming to the Alliance and being exposed to the community dedicated to ending homelessness, I have come to understand that this is not a comprehensive picture of homelessness. I think I thought that all people who were experiencing homelessness fell into that category of what I now understand to be chronic homelessness. Turns out I was wrong – there are so many different types of homelessness, most of which aren’t chronic. One type of homelessness that I had not considered before was family homelessness.

Family homelessness has been in the news a lot lately, especially because of the Annual Homelessness Assessment Report (AHAR) which found that the number of families seeking shelter has increased in the last year. Also, the new Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness, called Opening Doors, set a specific goal of ending family homelessness in 10 years. These developments have pushed the issue into the spotlight so, in an effort to educate myself more about this group, I asked around the Alliance and did some research to get a clearer picture of family homelessness.

So what is family homelessness? It’s exactly what one would think: families who are not able to afford housing, and as a result experience homelessness. Roughly 30 percent of those experiencing homelessness are families.

What do families experiencing homelessness look like? In truth, families experiencing homelessness aren’t different than other poor families. So what usually happens is this: there’s a poor family that’s just getting by and then something happens – an injury, a job loss, a car crash – and some unforeseen cost derails the family’s hard-strapped finances. At some point, they’re unable to make rent and fall into homelessness.

The majority of families who experience homelessness are homeless for fewer than six months. Chronic family homelessness – though it happens – is rare, because in those situations (repeated homelessness or in the case of illness or disability), children are usually removed from the situation.

So what are we going to do about it?Ending family homelessness is really contingent on investing in homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing – which is why we’re really happy with the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP), the $1.5 billion stimulus-funded federal program. The program was intended to curb homelessness resulting from the recession by quickly getting families back into housing (that’s the rapid re-housing part) or by connecting families with resources with they become at-risk of losing their housing (that’s the prevention part). It’s being implemented in communities across the country right this very second – and some communities are showing results already. We’re tracking progress in 13 communities across the country – you can see our latest report here.

There are several resources that families can use to help them acquire housing. Unemployment Insurance is available for those who qualify, as is Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for people with disabilities.

But the one program you’re going to hear about most when talking about poor families is Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

TANF – sometimes called welfare – is intended to provide poor families with temporary cash assistance as they work towards independence. And this program has been the focus of some legislative action.

In February 2009, Pres. Obama signed into law the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF) which was meant to help states continue their TANF program. At the height of the recession, it was projected that more families would be turning to public benefits and states would struggle to meet the needs of their residents. The federal government created TANF ECF and allowed states to use the fund to cover up to 80 percent of their TANF expenditures (the states had to come up with the other 20 percent on their own).

The Emergency Contingency Fund is set to expire – but a renewal is being considered in the Senate as part of the Tax Extenders Bill.

But more on that tomorrow!

For more information about family homelessness – including what you and I can do to help out, check out our website.

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21st June
written by Marisa Seitz

After a week of reports and federal policy – and more to come, undoubtedly! – we thought we’d share a lighter side of the Alliance! Marisa (see below!) went around to chat up our summer interns and find out what brought them to the Alliance.

Here at the Alliance, we have recently had a number of new interns join us on our mission, and now we would like to introduce them all to you!

Mindy Mitchell

Mindy has just completed her first year at CUNY, where she is working on her law degree. She used to be a case worker in Mobile, Alabama, which she says is the reason why she wanted to pursue her law degree, because as she says, “Kids should not be homeless.” It is also one of the reasons why she wanted to work here at the Alliance. Mindy says she wants to work on a structural level to change why families become homeless. While here, she is researching house states and helping get the word out to people in government about extending TANF ECF, part of HR 4213. She is also a bibliophile!

Stephanie Wege

Stephanie is a recent graduate of Cornell University, where she minored in inequality studies, an area that affects a lot of people experiencing homelessness. Stephanie has been looking for full time employment, and believes that this internship at the Alliance will give her an edge in the workplace. She was drawn to the Alliance because, as she says, it deals with a comprehensive approach to many of the things people experiencing homelessness deal with, such as health care, education and employment. Stephanie is a Capacity intern, who will be helping with web based training materials, HPRP case management, and a HPRP provider survey. She also has an identical twin sister!


Sumeet Singh

Sumeet is a rising Junior at Birmigham-Southern College. Last summer he worked for a congressmen in Alabama, and for Conservation Alabama, where he learned about grassroots movements at the state level. His next logical step was to see how things work at a national level, which is why he is here at the Alliance! Sumeet says he is really enjoying seeing how grassroots movements work through different organizations, all the way up through government, and begin to have actual effects. He is a Federal Advocacy intern, and at the moment is mostly working the upcoming Capital Hill Day. He also gets his lunch every day from CVS!

Marisa Seitz

And last but not least, me! My name is Marisa and I’m the new Social Media intern here at NAEH. I am a military brat who attends James Madison University during the year, enjoys traveling around the world with her family and loves dresses. I am very excited to be working here at NAEH. Although I have not had a lot of experience with homelessness before, I knew I would be working on a great cause here. As far as social media goes, being plugged in is hardly an option anymore if one wants to stay informed, but I am fascinated with the new ways social media can be used to create communities, and the way that mobile online communities can intertwine and begin to affect real change. I hope in my time here I can learn more about the fight against homelessness, but also to help strengthen and expand the community of people who care about ending homelessness.

7th June
written by naehblog

The last time we wrote about it, the Tax Extenders bill passed the House.

Next stop: the U.S. Senate.

Senate leaders are hoping to start debate on the bill as soon as tomorrow! and could vote on the bill this week!.

You can’t stop now when we’re so close! We need your senators to vote for H.R. 4213.

What you can DO

  • Call the housing staffer in your Senators’ offices today. Congressional office phone numbers can be found by calling the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.
  • Urge the housing staffer to continue their support for preventing and ending homelessness in your community by voting YES on H.R. 4213 and making sure funding for the NHTF and extension of the TANF ECF are included in the bill.
  • Let us knowhow it turned out! Contact Amanda Krusemark – and let us know who you contacted and what they said so we know who to target in the future!


The Tax Extenders bill includes capitalization for the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) and extends the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF) – both critical programs in reducing and ending homelessness in the United States. In fact, synchronizing housing and services has shown to be the most effective way to end a person’s homelessness and lead them towards stability. For more background on these programs, check out our old blogposts.

Thanks in advance to ALL our supporters – let’s do it!