Legislators approve raising welfare payments for first time in 22 years

The state House gave final approval Monday to legislation increasing Tennessee’s welfare cash payments for the first time in 22 years while toughening the program’s anti-fraud provisions, reports the Times Free Press.

The vote in favor of the bill (SB2247), which ran into trouble last week on the floor, was 88-7. (The Senate vote was 31-1 last month.) The measure now goes to Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, whose administration recommended it.

“This is a good bill,” said Rep. Dan Howell, R-Georgetown, the bill’s sponsor. “It’s time we gave a cost-of-living allowance to these 40,000 children in Tennessee.”

The GOP-controlled chamber earlier tabled a proposed amendment from Rep. Tilman Goins, R-Morristown, which last Thursday had snarled proceedings when it survived Howell’s efforts to table it.

The Goins’ amendment would have stripped away the increase, which boosts the percentage of Tennessee’s Standard of Need for households in the Families First program, the state’s federally funded Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, from 20 percent to 22 percent.

It was tabled on a 68-28 vote.

The average payment for a family of three would rise from $185 to about $277 a month.

Howell stressed that families on the program have a 60-month lifetime cap on benefits. The program has requirements that adults either work, be in an education program or engage in meaningful volunteer work.

The bill also boosts fraud enforcement, granting the state Department of Human Services new powers that include issuing subpoenas as well as closely monitoring families who’ve lost multiple EBT cards used to purchase food.

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