etc. 

Anybody been watching Today on NBC this week? If you can get past Al Roker sticking his microphone in the face of any old jackass with an “I love Skokie, Illinois” sign, the morning program may have been worth watching this week, particularly for Missoulians. On Wed., Sept. 1, Missoula’s own Aaron Flint was on Today. You remember Aaron Flint: The Associated Students of the University of Montana (ASUM) student government president who last year accepted a controversial student government campaign contribution from Republican-dominated PAC Forward Montana. The same Aaron Flint who this year spent more than double the campaign limit of $100 for a student Senate seat, was censured and denied that seat due to that violation, and then sued UM saying that campaign money equals free speech. (Flint has lost the first stage of that court battle, incidentally.)

Anyway, Flint stood next to Today’s Matt Lauer on Wednesday as the show broadcast from the Republican National Convention. Flint didn’t speak, but helped Lauer showcase some items for sale at the convention, including a crystal elephant statuette, George W. Bush “made in the shade” earrings (?) and Bush and Cheney bobblehead dolls. And speaking of bobbleheadedness…On Monday Matt Lauer shared the screen not with Aaron Flint, but with George W. Bush himself. In case you missed it (and have been living under a rock since), Lauer asked Bush if the U.S. could ever win the war on terrorism. “I don’t think you can win it,” Bush answered.

The next day, Bush attempted to counteract the predictable Democratic pounce by saying that of course he believes we will win the war on terrorism. So, if you’re keeping score at home, Bush says he doesn’t think we can win the war on terror one day and that we definitely will the very next day, but it’s John Kerry who “flip flops.”

•••

University students who receive cash assistance through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) may have learned one of their hardest lessons before school even started. The credit hours for which they register will only count toward their TANF weekly work requirement for up to 12 months instead of the 60 months TANF previously allowed.

“It’s terrible,” says Jennifer Carter, with the Missoula County Office of Public Assistance. And as far as she’s concerned, “It’s the worst feature of the Welfare Reform Act.”

Last August, says Carter, cash assistance to families was cut by 30 percent.

Montana, says Carter, does not have a culture of welfare. Most families, she says, don’t stay on cash assistance for long anyway. In December, Montana lost a federal waiver that had allowed up to 60 months of post-secondary education credits to count toward the 30-35 hour weekly work requirement for parents. TANF has yet to be re-authorized by Congress this year.

Kelly Deniger is supervisor of Missoula Job Services “WoRC” (Work Readiness Component) Program. As of the beginning of August, she says, roughly 300 families in Missoula County were receiving cash assistance through TANF, though not all are enrolled in school.

Deniger expects that TANF will be re-authorized only after November’s elections.

In the meantime, parents who want to further their education are finding out it isn’t just the children who are being left behind.

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