NC poverty program suspended because of federal shutdown

Raleigh News & ObserverOctober 15, 2013 

— North Carolina on Monday suspended its Work First program, formerly known as welfare, because of the federal shutdown in Washington.

County social service agencies stopped processing new applications for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families because federal monies are expected to dry up by November unless Congress can reach a deal for funding the federal government.

The Department of Health and Human Services sent out a letter Thursday to county social service directors telling them to stop processing new applications as well as re-certifications for November.

“We will be unable to make any Work First Family Assistance payments in November 2013 unless a continuing resolution or compromise on federal funding has been reached by the federal government,” wrote Wayne Black director of the division of Social Services.

Those who are already signed up for the short-term assistance program will receive their October checks.

TANF is the second major federally funded social services program in North Carolina to feel the effect of the government shutdown. Last week, DHHS became the only such state agency in the country to suspend its federally funded food program for low income mothers and babies – called the WIC program – only to reverse itself when the state budget director Art Pope said there was money available.

The only state that has withheld TANF checks since the shutdown is Arizona. But after her administration was sharply criticized for not tapping into the state’s rainy day fund, Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, redirected $650,000 in state funds to keep the program going through October.

Officials in Michigan have warned that funding for their TANF program would soon run out.

There are 20,709 North Carolina residents in the TANF program – 6,948 parents of dependent children and 13,761 children who live with someone other than a parent. In September, the program cost $4.7 million in federal funds in North Carolina.

The state started the Work First program in 1995 after Congress passed welfare reform. The program provides short-term training, cash, child care referrals and other services to help parents become employed, and it usually provides assistance for only two years.

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