In the waning days of the year, marriage programs poured on the charm (i.e., lobbied like mad) and got themselves partially reinstated in the federal budget. Congress had not included marriage programs when it funded Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF, the umbrella welfare program) from October through December 2010. However, it did include them in the new extension through September 2011, though at only three-quarters of their previous dollar level – $75 million instead of $100 million.
Fatherhood programs got a corresponding increase from $50 to 75 million. From the sidelines, it can be interesting to watch the tug of war between marriage and fatherhood programs. The Obama administration wanted to merge them into one, even bigger, program that would be managed by the states. Our analysis of all that is available here. Congress also seemed to favor programs that help low-income fathers get jobs and stay involved with their kids. A bill called the Julia Carson Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Families Act of 2009 (H.R. 2979) was being considered as an alternative to the administration’s proposal. That bill would have to start from scratch in the new Congress.
The extra year of funding will allow Congress (and us) to review the evaluation results for many more marriage programs before deciding whether to include them in the full five-year reauthorization of TANF. Of course, the programs are acutely aware of the importance of demonstrating positive results.