Income Supports

Approximately 141,983 District residents are living below 150% of the federal poverty line, earning less than $35,325 annually for a family of four. While the causes of poverty often stem from structural barriers there is—and will always be—a need to ensure that everyone has sufficient income to meet their daily needs and those of their family.

Key Programs and Policy Tools

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

In 2011, 48% of children (47,143) in the District of Columbia lived in low-income families, defined as having income below 200% of the federal poverty level; the national statistic is 45% [1]. For more than 18,000 families in DC, including the majority of homeless families, TANF is their sole source of income.

TANF is supposed to provide them with enough financial support to focus on the training and other services they need to get a job that will end their dependence on public benefits. The District’s TANF program falls far short of this goal. The current maximum benefit for a family of three is about $428 per month. However, the District is currently implementing a strict Benefit Reduction schedule that will cut benefits for families who have received TANF benefits for over 60 months.

Interim Disability Assistance (IDA)

When looking at the homeless population alone, 23 percent of single adults report physical disabilities as being the cause of their homelessness and an additional 28 percent of single adults report severe mental illness as being the cause of their homelessness[2].

IDA provides temporary financial assistance to those who are unable to work due to a disability and have a high probability of receiving federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Without IDA, residents must rely on crisis services, which cost the District government more because of a dependence on emergency medical services. This ultimately leads to poor health outcomes, as many homeless people do have health problems, but few have a regular source of medical care[3].

Funding for IDA has been cut sharply since the start of the recession, leading to significant cuts in the number of residents assisted.

Call to Action

We recommend the District:

  • Invest $3.4 million in IDA to restore the program back to its peak. This will allow an additional 1,050 individuals who are unable to work to receive temporary benefits.
  • Make significant investments in job training for TANF recipients.
  • Invest an additional $1.5 million to give TANF recipients with infant children a time exemption.
  • Increase TANF benefits by at least 15% (plus COL adjustment) to lessen the financial burden of families.
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