Cavaletto, a Republican, has introduced a proposal that would define
exactly how Temporary Assistance for Needy Families can and cannot be
"I understand one person used their TANF card to (get) out of jail," Cavaletto told Illinois Watchdog.
"He was put in jail and within five
hours he was out of jail, and he used his TANF card to bail out for
He wants to limit purchases with cards to the essentials.
"I'm talking about milk and bread, and I'm talking about wholesome foods
and vegetables, and baby diapers," Cavaletto said. "The basic needs for
TANF is a cash grant, usually delivered by a debit card. Unlike food
stamps that have a defined list of acceptable products, TANF cash can —
and often is — spent on items that other forms of public aid cannot buy.
The Illinois Department of Human Services, which administers the TANF
program, mentions only vague spending limits on its website. DHS states
cash assistance is for "basic needs, such as food, clothing, housing,
In 2013, Illinois had more than 130,000 people collecting TANF, which
provides a maximum of $982 a month for a family of four and $479 a month
for a single person.
Cavaletto said that number will likely go up again this year.
"If we're wasting money ... and we don't do anything but add to the
problem by enabling people, we're just going to go further into a hole," Cavaletto added.
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The recently released report "The War on Poverty" backs up Cavaletto's fears.
The report from Congress looks at all aspects of public aid
spending, including TANF, and found that TANF has been successful
because it's one of the few programs that has forced reforms on
families on welfare.
"By December 2010, only 1.9 million households were receiving cash
assistance through the TANF program," the report states. "Because of
welfare reform, there was a marked change in behavior by single mothers."
Cavaletto said that's the second half of his plan: to offer people
on public aid a path off welfare.
"We want to put people back to work, earning their own money," Cavaletto said,
"getting their own integrity back and having the things in life that they
But Cavaletto isn't holding his breath.
Republican lawmakers have introduced several plans to reform public
aid spending in Illinois, or at least force some accountability.
Those plans have failed in the past and likely will fail again this
Contact Benjamin Yount at
Ben@IllinoisWatchdog.org and find him
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