Do the math: How Kitzhaber’s plan adds up to throwing poor kids out into the street

Chuck Sheketoff

Governor Kitzhaber is proposing to reduce from 60 to 18 the number of months that extremely poor families with children may receive modest cash and job training assistance. What’s going to happen to the parents — and their kids — when they hit that lifetime limit? Will they all find jobs?

They won’t, unless the job market miraculously blossoms and the parents are able to land jobs at more than double the current rate. The Department of Human Services (DHS), who administers the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program, has neither a plan nor the ability to make that happen.

In March 2011 there were about 30,000 families receiving TANF. Over the previous year, on average 702 TANF families obtained employment each month.

At that rate it would take 43 months for the families currently on TANF to find employment with assistance from the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills (JOBS) program, a component of TANF.

In other words, unless the rate at which DHS helps families land jobs more than doubles, thousands of families currently in the program face an end to their lifeline that is TANF.

If that isn’t enough, consider the fact that each month hundreds of new families turn to TANF for vital assistance. A reflection of the tough economic environment, TANF is a program that has been growing to fill the need of a safety net for Oregon’s most vulnerable families.

The 43-month period that it would take for all families currently in the program to find work doesn’t even factor in the additional families needing assistance and jobs each month.

Thus, given the current rate that TANF families are entering the workforce and the growing caseload, Kitzhaber’s 18-month limit adds up to thousands of families with children being thrown out into the street.

Oregon Center for Public PolicyChuck Sheketoff is the executive director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy. You can sign up to receive email notification of OCPP materials at

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    What is the state of play of this proposed legislation? Is it a bill yet? Sounds utterly dismal. There was a time as a youngster when my single mother and her three children lived out of a broken down car in an age where welfare assistance had residency requirements and food stamps did not exist, nor did homeless shelters. We were literally dependent on the kindness of strangers in the middle of winter. Shame on Kitz for kicking the "least of these" to the curb.I guess he hasn't heard of Matt. 25. But you won't hear a thing from the good Christian churches about this either. Possibly E.M.O. (Ecumenical Ministries of Ore.) as the only exception. Is Chuck Currie going to fight this one?

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    Shame indeed.

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    Chuck, At the state level as at the federal level, any budget proposal that does not begin with tax fairness that eliminates the big tax breaks in place for the rich, is not serious. It is either kicking the can down the road or else a widening of the yawning gap between the one percenters and not just the poor but the remainder of the middle class as well. In which camp does the gov's plan place him?

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    Bill - there's a budget bill and the bill making substantive changes in the law (i.e. removing protections for low-income families). See Oregon Can Do Better Than Harm Poor Kids.

    Patrick, the Governor has not only failed to curb the inappropriate tax code spending, he's been backing expansion that favors the wealthy.

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      So is the Democratic Party with its majority lining up against poor families with children? Is that what we've come to?

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    I find this absolutely appalling. I voted for Kitzhaber but I'm beginning to experience serious voter's remorse. Where do the Democratic powers in the legislature stand on these changes?

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    Let's have someone from the Leg come on an defend this monster!

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    Better yet, Chuck, do a whip count of Dem. legislators who support this horrific thing and post their names on the forum here.

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    It is a bi-partisan problem.


    This is what downsizing government looks like, says Rep. Tina Kotek, a Portland Democrat and co-chair of the Ways & Means subcommittee on Human Services.
    "Do I think it's a good policy choice? Not necessarily," she says. "But it is a necessary reordering of services."
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    Friends — please take the time to send letter to Gov. and lawmakers asking to maintain poor and working families housing. We need state leaders to hear from a wide range of Oregonians on the issue...

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    Chuck, how much does this dramatic reduction in TANF save the state? What specific tax expenditures would you target as an alternative to making these cuts?

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    Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon and 30 religious leaders say the legislature is immoral:

    EMO: Oregon religious leaders issue moral challenge to state Legislature By robertm On May 3, 2011 · Leave a Comment

    “In the midst of persistent high unemployment and increasing family homelessness in Oregon, over 30 prominent Oregon religious leaders today issued a moral challenge to the state Legislature to “reverse course” on proposed cuts to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, and to fully fund the Emergency Housing Account, the General Fund Food program and other key programs that reduce hunger and homelessness for poor families with children.

    In a letter delivered to all members of the Legislature and posted online, a broad coalition of Oregon religious leaders from several faith traditions joined together to condemn proposed cuts to the TANF program and to call for additional action to reduce childhood hunger and homelessness in Oregon.

    A link to the letter can be found on the home page of the EMO website at

    Among the more than 30 religious leaders signing the letter were bishops and denominational executives from several Christian denominations, several Rabbis, Imams and other Muslim leaders, and a number of Unitarians. The letter was also signed by the executive directors of several faith-based non-profit agencies from diverse religious traditions. The release of the letter today marks the beginning of a broader statewide signature gathering effort.

    The letter singled out for particularly strong criticism a proposal to reduce the lifetime TANF enrollment limit from sixty months to 18-months:

    “We most strongly urge you to restore the $11.6 million in funding needed to maintain the current 60-month enrollment cap. Of the cuts proposed to TANF, the 18-month enrollment cap is the only one that will result in otherwise eligible families losing their monthly stipend during the next biennium. Consequently, an 18-month time limit will almost certainly lead to additional families becoming homeless and will likely generate new foster-care placements as well.”

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