Monday, May 12, 2008

GBPI Analysis of TANF Program Budget

The Georgia Budget and Policy Institute has released a new policy brief, "Tightening the Belt on Georgia's TANF Program: Doing More with Less in FY 2008 and Beyond," that tracks TANF appropriations across the Department of Human Resources. A key finding of the report is that the TANF budget will be facing a $32.7 million shortfall in FY 2010. The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program is the federally funded welfare to work program.

The amended FY 2008 and FY 2009 TANF budgets reflect the increasing pressure and reliance Georgia has exerted on the TANF grant to fund a broad array of services. As TANF caseloads have dropped, higher funding priority has been directed toward child welfare programs rather than child care, transportation and job training programs that would directly help families achieve economic self-sufficiency. As the TANF budget faces funding shortfalls in the coming years, policymakers and department officials will have to decide between further reducing work assistance programs and/or making larger investments of state funds to critical child welfare programs.

"Policymakers and DHR officials should have a thoughtful, data-driven discussion about which TANF budget priorities actually lead more Georgians to self-sufficiency," said Robert Welsh, Policy Analyst of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute. "There is simply not enough TANF dollars to maintain current funding levels, let alone any growth, in both work assistance and child welfare programs. The state will either have to increase its contribution to the DHR budget or cut program services by a potential $32.7 million in FY 2010," said Welsh.

In the FY 2008 Amended Budget, Georgia will be investing over $200 million out of $433.2 million expended TANF funds into Child Welfare, Adoptive Assistance, and Out of Home Care services alone. TANF funds will pay for one-third of all spending on child welfare related areas throughout the state budget. In total, Georgia will spend at least 56 percent of its annual FY 2008 TANF award on child welfare related programs, whereas only 44 percent of available funds will be expended on non-child welfare related services, such as work assistance and family assistance.

The FY 2009 Budget remains relatively unchanged from the FY 2008 Amended Budget. The most significant increase was a one-time $20.2 million addition to the Child Care Program. Funding levels for child welfare related programs in FY 2009 remain relatively flat at $206 million, or 56 percent of annual block grant funds. The remaining 44 percent of available TANF funds are appropriated to non-child welfare related programs.

"As child welfare related and mental health needs outweigh available resources, other programs that directly lead to family self-sufficiency and less government dependence, such as work assistance, education, training, and child care, may receive less priority and a smaller piece of the TANF pie," said Alan Essig, Executive Director of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute. "Federal TANF funds should not be used to backfill state funding shortfalls in child welfare and mental health programs at the cost of disinvesting in work assistance programs," said Essig.

A copy of the report is available on GBPI's website,

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