Legislation proposed by Virginia Senator Barbara A. Favola (D-Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun) was re-referred to full Committee out of the Senate Finance Sub-Committee today.
Senator Favola’s proposed legislation would restore fairness to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program by rescinding the lifetime ban on ex-offenders convicted of drug possession. Under current law, felons who are convicted of other crimes, including murder in the first degree are eligible to receive TANF benefits, but possession of marijuana is a crime that will permanently bar needy families from receiving TANF benefits. Under current law, children of ex-offenders are forced to share the consequences of their parents’ mistakes. Approximately 300 Virginia families would be eligible for assistance if SB 552 becomes law.
TANF assistance goes to families with children who are the poorest of the poor. These families live right on the edge, owning very few assets and have little or no income. To qualify, a single mother with two children earns $2,008 a month or less. The maximum benefit she could receive from TANF would be $292 a month. Parents of these needy children are re-entering society and attempting to start a new life.
If passed, families will be eligible to receive benefits provided the ex-offender complies with all obligations imposed by the court and the Department of Social Services, is actively engaged in or has completed substance abuse treatment and participates in quarterly drug screenings.