GAO Report on TANF: Action Is Needed to Better Promote Employment-Focused Approaches

Posted by Alexandra Kielty - On January 06, 2015 (EST)

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued this report, GAO-15-31, on Dec. 19, 2014, which focused on the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program and state agency efforts to support TANF beneficiaries enter or return to employment.

Of the 10 programs GAO examined, 9 drew on the expertise of partner organizations— including community college systems, workforce agencies, and nonprofits. The programs also benefitted from decisions by state and local policymakers to dedicate funds—including TANF funds—for the selected programs. However, many program design and funding choices are left to the states, and GAO’s prior work has shown that state use of TANF funds for more costly welfare-to-work approaches can compete with other allowable uses of TANF funds. Second, TANF’s main performance measure does not necessarily encourage agencies to use certain approaches that incorporate longer-term education and training or treatment services. Third, little incentive exists for TANF agencies to evaluate their programs. HHS’s authority over many aspects of TANF is limited and it has not proposed legislative changes to address these areas. Without federal action, adoption and evaluation of promising approaches may continue to be limited to select states and localities, leaving TANF recipients in other locations without access to these promising approaches.

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