Voices for Children in Nebraska would like to express our support for LB 508. The Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) program plays a role in helping families to be able to afford to meet their children’s needs so that they can stay together. It is also an important tool in trying to mitigate the consequences of child poverty. Unfortunately, the ADC program has not been able to mitigate the growing number of children living in poverty in the state, in part because the maximum ADC payment falls well below the poverty level. The number of kids living in poverty in Nebraska has grown from about 10 percent in 2000 to 18 percent, or almost 1 in 5, in 2011.
Below are data from our annual Kids Count in Nebraska Report. In State Fiscal Year 2011, a monthly average of 17,197 children were in the ADC Program and the average payment was $320.97 per month. The charts also illustrate that ADC enrollment has remained flat in spite of changes in unemployment rates and in the number of children living in extreme poverty, defined as being at or below 50% of the federal poverty level.
Our ADC payment currently ranks low relative to other measures of family economic stability. ADC payments fall below the minimum wage, the poverty line, and far below what a family would need to be economically stable.
We need to examine our ADC program to explore ways to improve its ability to address family preservation and child poverty. LB 508 is a piece of this puzzle that recognizes the inadequacy of current payment rates in the program. Additionally, recent federal policy changes have opened up new opportunities to improve the program. In 2012, the federal Administration for Children and Families (ACF) released guidance to states on a new waiver opportunity available in the TANF programs. This waiver would allow states to test new ways of achieving better employment outcomes for lower income families. If Nebraska were to apply for this waiver, the state would have a new opportunity to better serve families in the ADC program in ways that promote greater financial stability over the long term.
We hope the committee will advance LB 508 and continue look for additional ways to make our state’s ADC program a stronger tool in addressing family preservation and child poverty. Thank you.