Friday, March 19, 2010

Arizona Becomes the First State to Drop Children's Health Insurance Program

In times of economic downturn, children and seniors are most vulnerable.

On March 18th, faced with a $2.6 billion projected shortfall next year, Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona signed a budget that will leave 47,000 low-income children without health insurance, reported the New York Times.

Additionally, according to the William E. Morris Institute for Justice, based in Phoenix, Governor Brewer and the State legislature are considering reducing the TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) grant from 60 to 36 months and restricting the program so that only a few families who take in their relative children will qualify for a TANF grant.

According to the Institute, "Only about 40% of unemployed persons are eligible for unemployment insurance benefits in Arizona. In these times of high unemployment and few jobs, TANF is truly the program of last resort. Children are helpless victims of the recession. Without TANF, these families will have no money to buy clothing, maintain stable housing or provide for their children’s basic needs... If enacted, this program will leave thousands of [Arizona's] poorest children with no support."

Arizona's budget cuts illuminate why it is critical for Congress to pass health care reform. Without health reform, more states will follow Arizona's lead and more children and families will be in danger. Until then, Generations United urges state legislators to continue to preserve CHIP and TANF funding. Even in times like this, a state's budget is inherently a moral document, as it communicates the state's priorities. Children, families, and older adults need our support and investment.

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