Sen. Joey Fillingane, R-Sumrall, principally authored a bill to increase minimum welfare payments along with 11 Democratic co-sponsors. File Photo by Imani Khayyam
Mississippi families in need are set to gain a $90-per-month increase in welfare payments under a newly signed law. Gov. Tate Reeves signed Senate Bill 2759 on Wednesday, though the program is not expected to go into effect until summer.
Prior to this bill, a family of two received $146 per month, while families of three and four received $170 and $194 respectively under the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program.
TANF is the primary assistance method for poor families across the United States, but stagnant policy in combination with year-over-year inflation means that this assistance means less and less to those in the most dire need in Mississippi and the country.
The bump to TANF benefits arrives just over a year after stunning allegations of systemic fraud in the distribution of the funds to private organizations. The ongoing scandal ensnared Department of Human Services Executive Director John Davis, as well as Mississippi Community Economic Center Executive Director Nancy New and associates.
At the time, a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities showed an enormous downslide in poor families receiving direct cash assistance from TANF funds between 2001 and 2017, from 17% to 6%.
The $90 increase under the new bill constitutes an above-average increase compared to other states’ recent legislation, but Mississippi TANF benefits in actual dollars are still the lowest across the entire nation, even as Mississippi maintains its spot as the poorest state in the union with 20% of the population under the poverty line. In Mississippi and across the South, TANF provides benefits that equal 20% or less of the poverty line.
More information about TANF is available here, and the application form is available here.
An assessment to see if you or someone else you are applying for qualifies for program benefits is available here, though the Mississippi Department of Human Services notes that you may still qualify for benefits even if the pre-screening says otherwise and that it should not discourage applications.
Email Reporting Fellow Julian Mills at [email protected].