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Jennifer Cloukey

Getting the Facts Straight on TANF

If you are like me, you’re tired of hearing anecdotes passed off as justification for policy. Because the decisions of state legislators will have an impact on thousands of Maine people, I expect them to rely on sound data and accurate information. I want a public policy that moves beyond assumptions, one that is founded in facts and is inline with the real experiences of Mainers.

If we misdiagnose the problem, our solutions will be wrong. If we understand the problems correctly, we can shape thoughtful, common sense solutions. There’s no greater need for an accurate analysis than in the debate about Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Unfortunately, much of this debate so far has been driven by stereotypes, NOT credible information.

That is precisely why, a year ago, the Maine Women’s Lobby and Maine Equal Justice Partners commissioned a study on the TANF program with a survey of more than 1,000 families receiving assistance from TANF, followed by focus groups. The goal was to better understand TANF’s impact on families and the Maine economy. The result is the most comprehensive and rigorous study of TANF families in Maine conducted since 1995.

The well-being of 25,000 Maine children and their families is at stake in this debate.

Here’s what we learned: Read more »