Tightened federal standards and a big potential penalty force the state to change its rules in a key welfare program. The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program has been in effect for eleven years. During that time people signing up for the program start getting payments and then are referred to another state program to help them find work. A person can not receive more than 60 monthly payments in his entire life.
The federal government wants states to have half of the recipients in some kind of job. But various exemptions have let the state get by with only 15 to 20 percent of the recipients drawing paychecks. Director Janel Luck with the Family Support Division says new federal law tightens the definition of "allowable work activities" The federal standards allow people involved in counseling programs for substance abuse, domestic violence, or mental health treatments to be considered as being in those activities.
The division’s new rules say a person seeking the TANF has to work with the Division of Workforce Development to determine job skills and matching them with potential jobs before paperwork is finished for the temporary aid.
Luck says the state has to get close to the 50-percent level by October first. If it does not, it could lose more than 10-million dollars in federal funding for the program in the first year, and ultimately 45-million.