Sunday Square Off: Arizona cuts welfare aid for families with kids

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Arizona Republic columnist E.J. Montini, House Republican Kelly Townsend, and Democrat Minority Whip Eric Meyer “squared off” with 12 News’ Joe Dana to discuss state welfare cuts impacting Arizona families with children.

Arizona now has a 12-month cap on the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families federal block-grant program (TANF) that financially aids parents while they seek employment or cannot work. While the federal limit is five years, most states generally have a two-year cutoff.

The one-year restriction is effective as of July 1, 2016 and approximately 1,600 Arizona families are impacted, and an even greater number of children.

Townsend reflected on her decision to vote in favor of the decreased TANF support time limit during a time when Arizona was suffering from an economic downturn. Her initial thoughts on the bill appear to have shifted over time.

“It’s this two-sided coin that’s the real difficult thing to deal with,” Townsend said. “We need to look at the folks who truly need our help … I don’t think a year is sufficient for someone truly down on their luck.”

Meyer advocates that the topic be revisited with the hope of a different outcome. He explained that government funds are now feeding less children and, in turn, a domino effect is leading to neglect and more children being placed in the custody of the Department of Child Safety.

Montini believes that consequences are on the horizon if we continue down the path of restricted limits on monetary aid.

“If you take care of kids now, you’re not going to have trouble later,” Montini said. “If you don’t take care of them now, you definitely are going to have trouble later.”

An Arizona State University study highlights that Arizona’s fiscal constraints have steadily increased over recent years with a sharp decrease of children helped as a result.

Securing the future of Arizona children will rely heavily on our ability to restore our welfare system. To learn more about Southwest Human Development’s child welfare programs, please visit www.swhd.org/childwelfare.