A new report is recommending the state spend more of its federal welfare dollars helping needy families with childcare costs and offering cash assistance. MPB's Ezra Wall has more.
Federal money comes into Mississippi each year in the form of a TANF block grant. TANF stands for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. A new report says the state should spend 30 percent of its TANF money to cover childcare costs for more poor Mississippians. It also recommends offering more cash assistance, currently capped at $170 a month for a family of three. That's the lowest in the country. Matt Williams is the report's author.
"What we saw in the early 2000's is the state spent a lot more on child care and it spent more on basic cash assistance," says Williams. "And what we've seen in the last decade or so is the state spent more on work-related supports and activities and less on child care and less on basic cash assistance."
The TANF rolls have been reduced by two-thirds since 2003. So that means more of those poorer families are self-sufficient, right? Wrong, says Carol Burnett of the Mississippi Low-Income Child Care Initiative.
"If you leave welfare, that doesn't automatically mean that you've gone to work, it just means you're not on the welfare roles anymore," says Burnett. So there are a lot of ways you can end up off welfare without going to work."
Each state decides for itself how to spend TANF dollars. The Mississippi Department of Human Services website says it uses the funds to "end the dependence on public assistance by preparing you for a job..." The program offers education and job skills training.