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Federal welfare programs could soon face budget cuts for the first time since the 1996 welfare reform bill was passed. Both houses of Congress passed their tenth extension of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families in late June. That means the unwieldy legislation will likely end up in a closed-door budgeting process, called reconciliation, where committees are given a budget number and told to trim programs to meet it by September. “It just would be an environment where people are looking for cuts,” said Lee Posey, a policy specialist on the Human Services Committee of the National Conference of State Legislatures. And because much of the TANF grant serves the working poor, says Posey, cuts could spell disaster for a broad swath of low-income Americans—on and off the welfare rolls. Even Republicans are worried: “The way we use the TANF block grant in New York goes in all kinds of different directions to help low-income New Yorkers,” said Brian Wing, the Republican commissioner of New York state’s welfare agency, in a May interview. “The worst case scenario is a cut in the block grant.” [07/11/05]