Aid to dependent children changes advance

A bill intended to remove the “cliff effect” in the state’s Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) program advanced from general file March 18.

Lincoln Sen. Kathy Campbell, introducer of LB89, said the bill would ensure that Nebraska is using federal funds appropriately to aid low-income families and prevent the unnecessary entry of children into the child welfare system.

Campbell said the state Department of Health and Human Services currently has $50 million in unused Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) block grant funds. Increasing the maximum ADC benefit and changing the earned income disregard would make the best use of those TANF dollars, she said, and would protect the state’s vulnerable children.

For example, she said, the maximum ADC benefit in Nebraska has not changed in over 30 years. In addition, the cliff effect causes families to lose access to the ADC program if they accept even a small hourly wage increase, she said.

“Having spent nearly 40 years working on children’s issue, I’ve come to realize that one of the major risk factors in child abuse and neglect is poverty,” Campbell said.

LB89 would increase the maximum benefit each year through 2019, after which it would be set at 70 percent of the standard need. The bill also would change the amount of gross earned income that is disregarded for ADC applicants, increasing it to 50 percent once eligibility is established.

Bellevue Sen. Sue Crawford spoke in favor of the bill, saying the state should use federal block grant funds wisely and for their intended purpose.

For TANF funds, she said, that purpose is to assist children in poverty and to help low-income families achieve self-sufficiency. The current maximum monthly benefit of $293 does not achieve those goals, she said, because it is not enough to ensure that struggling parents can meet their children’s basic needs.

“Our low maximum payment puts children at greater risk for involvement in our child welfare system,” Crawford said.

Seward Sen. Mark Kolterman also supported the bill, saying it would help low-income families become taxpayers rather than users of tax dollars.

“I think it’s time, after 30 years, that we support this,” Kolterman said.

The bill advanced to select file on a 26-0 vote.

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