Cut in aid to needy families costs DES millions; Rose Law Group Partner Kaine Fisher assesses the situation

Jillian Vigil, 34, has received cash assistance from the state in the past. She won’t be able to receive it in the future, thanks to a 12-month lifetime limit to the program. /Photo by Rachel Leingang, Arizona Capitol Times
Jillian Vigil, 34, has received cash assistance from the state in the past. She won’t be able to receive it in the future, thanks to a 12-month lifetime limit to the program. /Photo by Rachel Leingang, Arizona Capitol Times

By Rachel Leingang | Arizona Capitol Times

Jillian Vigil lost everything. Literally everything. As she was fleeing a domestic violence relationship, leaving nearly all her possessions behind, her partner even burned her Social Security card.

Gradually, the 34-year-old mother of five started to rebuild. She stayed at a shelter with her youngest child, while the four other kids lived with her ex-husband. Once she was out of the shelter and had her own place, she still needed help to pay for things like toilet paper and bus passes to get to job interviews.

The $235 monthly cash assistance she received from the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program “saved my butt” for a full year, Vigil said.

“Even if somebody paid my electric bill and my house bill, but nothing else, we’d be in an empty shell of a house, no food, no toilet paper or whatever. We’d be better off in a shelter. … (Cash assistance) is vital, and it changes the experience for the kids during hardships dramatically,” she said.

Continued:

“There is only so much money to around. DES family-related programs hang on by a thread to begin with. Budget cuts and arbitrary benefit limitations that have unintended consequences certainly don’t help the situation. Specifically, TANF benefits and child support enforcement are important to many families here in Arizona.

“I see the benefits of these programs first-hand. Many of the same people receive the financial benefit of both programs. It’s unfortunate the legislature could not find a way to benefit one of these programs without negatively impacting the other.”

~Kaine Fisher

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