Increasingly, the capacity of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to reduce poverty in Oregon depends on the success of legal immigrant families. The importance of helping immigrants receiving TANF benefits will only increase in the future, if the number of legal immigrants living in Oregon continues to grow as rapidly as it did over the last decade. Oregon’s foreign-born population grew by 79 percent in the 1990s.
Download a copy of this report: Improving the TANF Program for Legal Immigrants (PDF)
This paper recommends that when Congress reauthorizes the TANF program later this year, it should:
- Allow states the option of using federal TANF funds to help legal immigrants who have lived in the US less than five years.
- Explicitly allow states to provide more English instruction as part of their “welfare to work” programs, and provide incentives to assure that legal immigrants learn the English they need for future advancement.
The paper also offers recommendations for Oregon to improve the state TANF program, currently operating under a waiver to the federal rules. The paper recommends that Oregon:
- Adopt rules assuring that recipients achieve English proficiency before they are required to conduct work search or accept a job offer. Legal immigrants who accept a job before achieving English proficiency should be offered ongoing work-oriented English training.
- Establish a statewide policy on English training by requiring it to be a component of each Service Delivery Area plan.
- Collect and compile more data on TANF recipients lacking English skills. Oregon should gather and report the same data on limited-English TANF recipients that is collected and compiled on the TANF caseload as a whole.
- Require all service delivery areas to use TANF funds to help undocumented caretakers of children eligible for TANF.
- Cease the practice of attributing the income of sponsors to immigrant families living in the US less than five years.