1) Because the TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) Block Grant Funding amount has remained the same over the years ($158,258,000) while the TANF caseload has diminished  —- from 70,797 families in June 1995 to 24,680 families in June 2015  -- Virginia has, as a result, the financial resources required to assuage the poverty afflicting many children in the state. In addition, it should be noted that the TANF “carry-forward” from prior fiscal years 2014, 2015, 2016 has been $36, 533,157, $47,528,489, $39,226,072.

2) Unfortunately, although the financial resources have been available to Virginia for many years, the resolve to lighten the burden for impoverished children has been deficient.

3) In addition, there has been a significant gap, actually a grave injustice, in the level of care provided to impoverished children in the Foster Care program and those in the TANF Kinship Care (aka Relative Care) program. For example, two siblings age five and thirteen being cared for in a Foster Care home will receive $1,227 per month--$14,724 per year--plus an annual clothing allowance of $386 and $464; the same children, if being cared for by a relative, receives a mere $254 per month—$3,048 per year--under the TANF program. The only difference between these children in this example is their domicile; one lives with a foster parent and the other with a relative.

4) The example cited above demonstrates how dramatically the cost to the state would escalate if children in TANF households were transferred to the foster care program.

5) Considering the TANF surplus that is available and noted in #1 above, the time for correcting this inequity is long overdue, especially in light of the fact that assistance available to impoverished children living with a relative has increased only twice since 1985; that is twice in 30 years.  

6) In contrast, Foster care support payments increased by 15 percent in FY 2009; these payments are again set to increase in 2016. Even with a 15 percent TANF increase for next year and the following two years, TANF benefits would still lag far behind foster care payments, exacerbating the policy inequity that currently prevails. A comparable increase in TANF benefits is long past due; this injustice calls for a prompt correction.  

7) TANF benefits are currently supporting roughly 34,680 children in Virginia. Most of these children live with at least one parent, but about a half of them, roughly 17,043 children, live with a relative other than a parent. These relatives, especially grandparents, make tremendous sacrifices to care for these children, i.e., their kin, and they receive little support in doing so--nothing in comparison to what is received by Foster families.

8) Virginia is presented with an opportunity to invest the considerable savings noted above in helping the hard-to-serve families who remain on TANF. As a matter of basic fairness and in light of the moral imperative to set things aright, i.e., do justice, the Governor and General Assembly owe it to Virginia’s neediest children to restore at least a portion of the buying power lost to inflation and, thereby, use TANF funds for their most fundamental purpose, to provide a temporary safety net for families working toward financial independence.  

9) Funding for TANF should be increased no later than FY 2017 by 15 percent, costing $7.5 million, to account for what was lost due to over 25 percent inflation during the past fifteen years. In addition, benefits should be indexed to increase whenever Foster Care rates are increased. Doing so would address the issue of future inflation and allow recipients to continue meeting basic needs and reduce the increasing/unfair disparity between Foster Care payments and TANF benefits for children.


Background. Nationwide, an estimated 2.7 million children have an incarcerated parent, and some 5 million children will experience parental incarceration at some point during their childhood.

A coalition of prison reform organizations (see note A) said in a letter to the California Board of State and Community Corrections that in-person visits result in fewer disciplinary problems among prisoners and lower recidivism rates.

“Keeping prisoners and their families connected through in-person visits must remain the primary option. Video visitation should be a secondary/voluntary option only"- Resource, Information, Help for the Disadvantaged (RIHD).

Without Virginia state legislation, there is serious concern that in-person visits will be abolished and replaced with video-only contact between inmates and their loved ones. According to the website for SECURUS, the largest video visitation service:

“Imagine no longer having to move inmates, service long lines of visitors, and manually manage visitation schedules. What types of efficiencies could be gained by eliminating these burdensome tasks?”

1) Virginia legislation is needed to require the Virginia Department of Corrections (DOC) to promulgate regulations for video visitation services that allow inmates to make video calls to individuals outside a correctional facility, but would require the DOC to ensure that correctional facilities that have video visitation services do not abolish or decrease the available in-person visits, and submit quarterly compliance reports.

2) Proposed Virginia legislation would regulate inmate calling services as necessary, to ensure that charges and practices are just and reasonable. The regulations must include: caps on rates charged by service providers, a prohibition against charging flat rates, a prohibition against a provider requiring a correctional facility to restrict in-person visitation as a condition to providing a calling or video visitation service, a prohibition against the provider offering bundled services that include non-communications services, and video quality standards.

3) Although video visitation is an important option for people with physical illnesses, disabilities, and limited time and finances, in-person prison visits help incarcerated people to maintain vital relationships with their family members and loved ones on the outside. Studies show that inmates who get personal visits with family are less likely to return.

NOTES: The coalition is comprised of the ACLU; the Prison Law Office; Legal Services for Prisoners with Children; and the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice  (Novemer 29,2017)

Dear John,
I haven't written to you in a very long time due to so many medical problems and many other issues but after learning about this story, I had to write. So here goes.

Now that the Governor has fixed one issue to help us get back into being productive citizens, I wish he would help with the one issue I have written every Governor, Senator, and so many more that I can't even begin to name them all, to help us get on our feet after being released from prison.

The fact that we can't get on our feet because we can't get a good start financially after release is a big problem. We are denied Food Stamps, when VIOLENT CRIMINALS, for example, Murderers, Rapists, Child Molesters, etc. can get out of prison and be receiving Food stamps the next day.

All I did was have a surgery, which led to an addiction which then led to finding a way to feed my addiction. So I was convicted of selling a pill. I am not saying that it is not bad, but I didn't sell the pill to a child and the person I sold it to did not die or get sick or overdose. But 20 years later, I am still being punished by being denied help with Food Stamps, and 20 years later, I have not gotten on my feet, but I am now severely disabled and live every day wondering how I am going to pay bills and buy Food.

I am not going through the entire story of my release, but you probably know how hard it is to get a decent job after being convicted of a felony charge. Even though I went to College, I still couldn't find a "decent"  job after release. No one wants to hire a felon, especially one that was an addict. So, here I am all these years later, still poor as poor can get, severely disabled and unable to get Food Stamps to help just a little bit. I am no longer able to work and I sit and I cry most days because I can't work. Anyway.............

I have been through lots of programs that other states require to get Food Stamps after release.  Probably many, many more than required by ANY State requirements.

I still go to NA meetings, when I am not too sick from my many medical problems.

If only the Governor understood all the things we have to go through after being released, and if he knew all the resistance, hatred, prejudice and so much more, that we have to endure, maybe he would change a few more laws to help those being released today. Also, to help those who have suffered for years, due to not having help being reintroduced back into society, like myself. I am not even able to sit or stand for long periods of time, so it took me many sittings today, to write this email.

I figured if I could get out 1 email, it would be best to send it to you, John. Thanks for what you do. So very much appreciated!!!  


Tammy M.
We celebrate and keep organizing
SALT Advocates:

As a society we value second chances. When people have served their time in prison, they are released from incarceration and we should want to see them restored to a productive life. We want them to be able to get a job, support their families, and be involved in their communities in a positive way. These individuals want to find a way to contribute to society and work for a better future.

Fact Sheet: Support Lifting the Ban on Food Stamps

1) The criminal code requires changing prior to removal of the SNAP ban. Therefore, the SNAP bill modification will be deferred to the 2019 session.

2) Virginia is 1 of 25 states that has a modified ban on food stamps for those convicted of a drug felony, and 16 states have no ban on food stamps for those convicted of a drug felony,and 9 have a full ban.

3) The lifetime ban in Virginia is for drug distribution resulting in a felony conviction, not drug possession. The ban on food stamps for drug possession was lifted in 2005.

4) The ban has not been shown to decrease drug use. Furthermore, by raising a new substantial barrier to successful reentry, the ban may actually harm public safety and public health, while contributing to swollen prison populations.

5) For formerly incarcerated individuals transitioning back to their home communities, SNAP and TANF benefits help meet their basic survival needs while searching for jobs or housing. The programs reduce the likelihood that formerly incarcerated individuals will return to criminal activity to secure food or other essentials for themselves or their families.

6) Restrictions on SNAP and TANF benefits are also counterproductive for providing drug treatment services. Historically, drug treatment facilities have used their patients’ SNAP and TANF benefits to subsidize the cost of treatment.

7) The ban has not been shown to decrease drug use, and there is no evidence to date that any harm caused by the ban has been offset by the realization of significant positive outcomes for public safety.

8) The ban negatively impacts children. When a parent is denied cash assistance or food stamps, children suffer. A family's funds go toward caring for the entire family, not only the individuals who qualify for federal assistance. Food stamps and cash support are essential for the health, survival and stability of families.

9) The ban punishes individuals and their families twice for the same crime. Those impacted by this ban have already paid whatever price the criminal justice system demands of them.  The ban provision represents additional punishment that limits the families’ ability to get needed transitional assistance for self-sufficiency. SEE ATTACHED LETTER.

10) Among other incongruous effects, the ban is inconsistent with Congressional support for reentry services through funding provided by the Second Chance Act, as well as current policy recommendations of the Federal Interagency Reentry Council.