GAO Report on TANF

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), looking at how states offer services other than cash assistance. In reviewing expenditure information and talking with Health and Human Services (HHS) officials, TANF experts and officials in 10 states that account for half of the nations’ spending on TANF, GAO recommends Congress improve reporting and performance information for the program. Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) of the Senate Finance Committee along with Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) requested the study to inform potential reauthorization of the program.

TANF is a capped block grant to the states that can be used for cash assistance and services, including work supports and child welfare. Work supports and job preparation include help with searching for a job, skills training, subsidized employment, and child care subsidies. Child welfare services include child abuse hotlines, investigative and legal services, child protection and prevention services. The report goes into further detail about TANF’s fiscal structure, HHS oversight responsibilities, and trends in TANF expenditures, including state decisions and reporting on non-cash assistance services. The report concludes that TANF goes beyond a traditional cash assistance program, but that it is not currently possible to determine how these efforts further or stray from TANF’s purpose.

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