The welfare reform law of 1996 contains provisions that are intended to allow faith-based organizations (FBOs) to compete for public funding to provide social services under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program on the same terms as any other provider without having to alter their religious character, while preserving the religious freedom of service recipients. In 2000, Congress enacted similar “Charitable Choice” provisions for certain programs funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the largest of which is the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment (SAPT) block grant. Regulations clarifying the TANF and SAPT Charitable Choice rules were issued in 2003. This study examines how state and local officials in these programs understand and apply Charitable Choice provisions. Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., with assistance from subcontractors the Hudson Institute, the Center for Public Justice, and the Sagamore Institute of Policy Research, surveyed agencies contracting with TANF or SAPT funds in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, along with local TANF agencies in selected counties. Findings indicate that Charitable Choice provisions have had little or no effect on agencies’ preexisting contracting policies regarding FBOs. There are, however, significant efforts to reach out to FBOs to encourage their involvement in TANF and SAPT and to remove barriers. The vast majority of agencies recognize that certain characteristics and behaviors make FBOs ineligible for funding under Charitable Choice, but in several instances, agencies did not appear to know or apply the relevant Charitable Choice provisions that establish the eligibility of certain types of FBOs for TANF or SAPT funding. These discrepancies may indicate a need for greater training of agency staff.
PIC ID: 8184; Agency Sponsor: ASPE-OHSP, Office of Human Services Policy; Federal Contact: Landey, Alana & Tambornino, John; Performer: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., Washington, DC