As the legislative session came to a close, lawmakers chose not to expand a program aimed at helping the state’s most impoverished families. Policy groups say a change is direly needed since Indiana’s benefits reach the fewest families of all Midwestern states.
The bill, HB 1009, started in the House as a proposal to prevent income earned in worker training programs from counting against government benefits.
But when it went to the Senate, lawmakers added to the bill, making it easier for families with children to qualify for a program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF. They also sought to increase the amount of cash assistance those families could receive. Indiana’s rules regulating the federal benefits were last updated in the 1980s and advocates say both eligibility and benefits have fallen far short of inflation.
The House disagreed with the Senate's additions and, at the end of the session, the TANF language was taken out of the final bill before passing both chambers almost unanimously.