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MS Senate, House Democratic Caucuses...

MS Senate, House Democratic Caucuses hold second hearing on possible reforms to TANF program

By: Anne Summerhays - December 15, 2022

Lawmakers heard from Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Springboard to Opportunities, and more at the partisan hearing.

On Thursday, the Mississippi House Democratic Caucus (MHDC) and the Mississippi Senate Democratic Caucus (MSDC) hosted the second in a series of public hearings on possible reforms to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program in Mississippi.

According to MDHS, the TANF Program is a workforce development and training program designed to help needy families achieve self-sufficiency through employment and training activities provided by the TANF Work Program (TWP).

TANF supportive services such as assistance with childcare and transportation expenses are available to help the adults in the family prepare for employment and promote self-sufficiency.

Speakers at Thursday’s hearing included:

  • Aisha Nyrandoro, Springboard to Opportunities.
  • Donna Pavarti, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
  • Carol Burnett, Executive Director of Mississippi Low-Income Child-Care Initiative.
  • Kyra Toby, OneVoice.

Sonya Williams Barnes, State Policy Director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, introduced each of the individual speakers.

You can watch Thursday’s full public hearing below. 

State Representative Robert Johnson, the House Minority Leader, said the purpose of these hearings is to help the lawmakers fashion legislation and recommendations to improve the TANF program. 

“We have a wealth of information now, we have information we can work with,” Johnson said. “Between now and January we will have legislative recommendations and suggestions to the Department and ways that will improve this program and help people who are on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, help that program do the work it was really intended to do.”

The livestream of the hearing noted that the broadcast was coming from the Caucus’ Facebook page, and not the Legislature’s YouTube channel. In order for a hearing to be streamed to the YouTube channel from the Capitol room, it cannot be partisan in nature.

“Yes, that’s right: these hearings are, by no fault of our own, a partisan endeavor. It is our aim to address, in earnest, how a program can be so flawed that it was able to serve as a slush fund for the well-connected while it neglected its primary purpose of helping our fellow Mississippians get back on their feet,” the statement said.

The statement said that though it is a meeting of only Democrats, that is because they seem to be “the only group of people in this building interested in standing up for the Mississippians who have been left behind by a system that isn’t delivering on its promise to provide meaningful support for the families who need it most.”

“Or for the taxpayers who were furious to see their hard-earned money being used to line the pockets of the already wealthy and powerful and who are, rightfully, demanding answers to how and why the largest theft of taxpayer dollars in state history could’ve happened right under all of our noses,” the statement continued.

The lawmakers added that they plan to get to the bottom of the many issues plaguing the TANF program, hearing from the people implementing the program and the policy experts who can help them understand how this program can better serve the Mississippians who need it. They added that they would like to do that alongside their Republican colleagues.

“Not just because it’ll make the livestream thing much easier, but because it’s what we were all elected to do,” the statement concluded.

The lawmakers held the first public hearing on possible reforms to the TANF program in Mississippi in October.

READ MORE: MS Legislative Democratic Caucus holds hearing on possible reforms to TANF program.

Following the first public meeting, State Senator Derrick Simmons said they will host more legislative hearings in hopes to gather information that will give them what is needed to craft legislation, if necessary, that ensures every TANF dollar goes to the families it was intended to help.

“It’s important that we repair and preserve the integrity of the program, so we don’t risk losing future federal funding,” Simmons said in October.

About the Author(s)
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Anne Summerhays

Anne Summerhays is a recent graduate of Millsaps College where she majored in Political Science, with minors in Sociology and American Studies. In 2021, she joined Y’all Politics as a Capitol Correspondent. Prior to making that move, she interned for a congressional office in Washington, D.C. and a multi-state government relations and public affairs firm in Jackson, Mississippi. While at Millsaps, Summerhays received a Legislative Fellowship with the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi where she worked with an active member of the Mississippi Legislature for the length of session. She has quickly established trust in the Capitol as a fair, honest, and hardworking young reporter. Her background in political science helps her cut through the noise to find and explain the truth. Email Anne: