Resolution On Assistance to Needy Families

Whereas the Torah (Deut. 15:8) enjoins us to provide for the basic needs of the poor (de mahsoro);

Whereas Jewish tradition has always valued work for bringing dignity to the worker, as the Talmud (Nedarim 49b) says, “Great is work, for it honors the workers;”

Whereas the Welfare Reform Act of 1996 profoundly changed the structures within American government and society for meeting the needs of the poor and supporting them while they find work;

 Whereas during the recent recession and following the attack of Sept. 11, 2001 unemployment has risen sharply, and the number of people receiving welfare has increased - in more than ¾ of the states during the last quarter of 2002;

Whereas the current states’ fiscal crisis is already causing many of them to make cuts in TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families)-funded programs such as housing and homeless shelters, childcare, employment services, transportation assistance and job training;

Whereas in January, the President called for a five-year freeze in funding for basic assistance, welfare-to-work programs and child care, which does not even keep up with inflation, and unrealistically raises the number of hours a recipient of services must work per week from 30 to 40;

Whereas so-called ‘superwaivers’ such as those embodied in the House-passed TANF Reauthorization bill (H.R. 4737) will likely further supplant monies allocated to provide housing for the homeless and working poor, and weaken target limits to assure a minimum number of public housing slots for the very poor; and

Whereas the President’s budget for 2003 calls for reductions in social services, job training, health and child care and Section 8 housing vouchers for the poor.

Therefore be it resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly call on the President and Congress to give additional grants to the states during this fiscal crisis to help fund their federally mandated programs for the poor;

Be it further resolved that funding for social welfare, child care and health care, job training and housing be adjusted for inflation and to provide the further necessary supports for the poor so they will become economically self-reliant;

Be it further resolved that the required number of hours of work for aid recipients be maintained at the current level; and

Be it further resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly oppose “superwaivers” that would weaken existing housing and social service programs for the poorest members of society.

Passed by the Rabbinical Assembly Plenum, April, 2003