Failures in Accountability Plague Our Assistance Programs
Accountability in our assistance programs is essential to helping Louisiana families. The Louisiana Legislative Auditor reported that the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) failed to enforce work verification requirements for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The TANF program issues grants to states so that they can provide financial support to families in need. Additionally, this program intends to provide case management services to recipients; however, from July 2020 to April 2021 these services were not offered to families in need. This report follows on the heels of an audit of the Louisiana Workforce Commission that similarly found problems in their management of assistance programs.
The Louisiana Legislative Auditor reported that “failure to provide case management services resulted in noncompliance with work verification plan requirements, including determining when a TANF recipient is ready to engage in work activities. Noncompliance could result in penalties assessed on the state by the federal grantor. This is the tenth consecutive year we have reported exceptions with internal controls and compliance related to this TANF requirement”.
When a recipient of TANF funds is determined to be able to work, they are required to engage in work activities. Without case management services, poor incentives are created, and families are forgotten and left on their own to navigate the system. The goal of assistance programs is to be temporary assistance to catch people when they fall, but mismanagement of programs like TANF ends up trapping families and keeping Louisianans dependent on the safety net.
A focus on holistic services is necessary to solve this problem. It should be a priority to offer workforce and human services at the same time to TANF recipients. A “no wrong door” policy that provides both workforce and human services will ensure that the needs of families are not neglected. Families receiving assistance through TANF deserve not only financial assistance but also the opportunity to thrive. Parents and caretakers must be provided with resources to reenter the workforce.
If our state’s safety net programs are to succeed, DCFS and other state agencies must be held accountable by the families these programs are supposed to assist. Our current system fails because it does not take into consideration the long-term interests of Louisiana’s families. It reduces recipients of assistance to a number on an audit report. Whereas providing families with tailored and personalized case management services will enable them to realize their financial goals.