This month Congress will address extending the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program through September 30, 2012. As of today, Congress has eliminated the TANF Supplemental Grant which leaves Georgia short $37.3 million for many health and human service programs. If Congress doesn’t restore the TANF Supplemental Grant, Georgia will lose vital services that help keep struggling families afloat during this difficult economy. Here are a few potential impacts for FY 2013:
- Georgia’s foster care system would be cut by $10 million. Such a cut could delay the development of a state-wide policy to improve case manager safety assessments for children reported to be abused or neglected. The number of children in foster care is on the rise while the state is still seeking compliance with a federal court consent decree.
- Adult Addictive Disease Services would be cut by $8.6 million. Outpatient facilities could close and the cut could significantly reduce the capacity for residential facilities and transitional housing to help drug- and alcohol-addicted adults. This is especially harmful to the state because access to community-based substance abuse treatment keeps people out of the criminal justice system, which benefits communities and lowers other costs to the state.
- At-risk children may not receive the early interventions needed to thrive due to crippling cuts in Children 1st. This program helps children from birth to age 5 who are at risk for poor health and developmental problems by connecting children and their families to much-needed services to ensure that children are healthy and ready to start school.
- Teen center program funding would be eliminated. In the last fiscal year, Georgia received $3.5 million in funding that supported 30 teen centers that use proven strategies to prevent teen births. The funding cut will force all 30 teen centers to close and eliminate half of the Youth Development Coordinators in the state.
Why is the TANF Supplemental Grant important to us?
That’s easy. Since welfare reform in 1996, Georgia received its federal TANF funds from two sources, the TANF Block Grant ($330.7 million) and the TANF Supplemental Grant ($37.3 million). Congress created the TANF Supplemental Grant to provide additional funds to 17 states—including Georgia—that might have been disadvantaged by the block grant formula.
For the first time since welfare reform, Congress did not fully fund the TANF Supplemental Grant for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2011. Georgia received $12.7 million less, which the Department of Human Services replaced with surplus federal TANF funds. So we didn’t feel the pain. When Congress extended the TANF program through February 29, 2012, it did not include the TANF Supplemental Grant at all. With no federal grant and insufficient state funds to make up the loss, we look to Congress to reconsider.
Congress still has time to restore the TANF Supplemental Grant. It is important thatGeorgia’s Congressional delegation, especially Representative Tom Price who serves on the conference committee debating this issue, understand how critical restoration of these funds are to Georgia. In the grand scheme, $37.3 million may seem insignificant compared to the billions appropriated at the federal level, but for the sake of Georgia’s children and families these funds are worth fighting for.