Wednesday, November 13, 2019
States save federal funds meant for needy families instead of distributing the money—too much, some say
In 1996, the federal government replaced traditional welfare with a block grant program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Federal law allows states to bank unused TANF money for recessions or natural disasters, but some say states are holding onto too much money that could go to families in need.
The issue came to a head in Tennessee recently, where nearly 1 in 6 residents live in poverty. U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, a Democrat from Memphis, sent the state's Republican governor, Bill Lee, an open letter demanding to know why the state wasn't spending more of its funding, Wiltz reports. "When 15.3 percent of Tennesseans are living in poverty, it is inexcusable for the state to withhold millions of federal dollars allocated to help this exact population," Cohen wrote.