GAO Releases Update on TANF Program

In anticipation of the extension or reauthorization of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released an updated report on some of the key issues facing states with regards to welfare caseloads and work participation rates. Drawing largely from two 2010 reports, the first on work participation and the second on TANF caseloads, this new report by GAO consists of an analysis of state data reported to the Department of Health and Human Services, a survey of TANF administrators, site visits conducted in three states, and review of relevant laws, regulations, and research.

In addition, GAO gathered information on caseload changes with respect to TANF child-only cases. The data showed that between fiscal years 1997 and 2008, the total number of families receiving cash assistance decreased by 50 percent. At the same time, child-only cases increased from 35 percent of total cases in 2000 to approximately half in 2008. Unfortunately, because states are primarily responsible for reporting data on families receiving cash assistance (and not other forms of TANF aid), the data does not describe who is being served by TANF funds and consequently does not ensure state accountability. This report served as the basis for testimony by Kay Brown, the GAO’s Director of Education, Workforce, and Income Security, before the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources this week.

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