Spending on Social Welfare Programs in Rich and Poor States. Final Report.. Louisiana's Response to Federal Welfare Reform

07/01/2004

Louisiana's TANF and childcare programs are administered by the Office of Family Support within the Department of Social Services (DSS) and the state's child welfare, adoption, and foster care programs are administered by the Office of Community Services, also within the DSS. In 2001, the TANF Executive Office of Oversight and Evaluation was established within the Division of Administration to oversee the state's TANF initiatives.

In January 1997, Louisiana implemented two principal TANF programs: Family Independence Temporary Assistance Program (FITAP) and Family Independence Work Program (FIND Work) both administered by the DSS. FITAP provides time-limited cash grants to needy families. FIND Work (the work component of the state TANF program) provides job preparation, work, and support services to place recipients in jobs or in educational, training, and other work-related activities. In March 2000 Louisiana implemented another TANF program - Kinship Care Subsidy Program - which provides assistance to children residing with relatives other than their parents.

Louisiana's welfare caseloads fell by 66 percent from 1993 to 1999. In the same period, the poverty rate decreased 27 percent (to 19 percent). Louisiana limits cash assistance to twenty-four months in a sixty-month period. According to DSS reports, two percent of Louisiana families receive cash assistance. Seventy-seven percent of welfare recipients are children, nearly all of whom live in households headed by females, and 86 percent of welfare recipients are African-American. Louisiana's maximum TANF benefit level is low; from 1985 to 2000, the maximum benefit for a three-person family was $190. In 2001, the state increased its benefit level for a family of three to $220.

During the initial years of FITAP and FIND Work, Louisiana accumulated a large surplus of unspent federal TANF block grant funds, partially due to declining welfare rolls. In addition, the state was slow to respond to the increased flexibility afforded by welfare reform. In 2001, Louisiana began using TANF funds for a variety of programs, referred to as TANF Initiatives, to focus on the broader low-income population. The TANF Initiatives included 22 different service initiatives for low-income families in 11 agencies.2 For example, the state's pre-kindergarten program was created to provide high quality early childhood services for low-income 4-year-olds, and is funded with federal TANF funds. To help oversee this broad range of diverse programs, the TANF Executive Office of Oversight and Evaluation was established in 2001 within the Division of Administration to oversee and evaluate TANF initiatives. The TANF Office is involved in (1) developing, approving, and monitoring performance measurement and accountability standards; (2) TANF budget development and approval; (3) capacity building and technical assistance; and (4) evaluation of FITAP and FIND Work services. The TANF Office also funded a number of research projects including a needs assessment of low-income families, a mapping of poverty indicators, a fragile families study, a teen pregnancy prevention study, and a welfare leavers' study. Allocations for TANF initiatives grew from $89 million in FFY 2002 to $154 million in FFY 2003, but declined to $117 million in FFY 2004. However, FFY 2004 is the last "big year" for TANF initiatives, since the unexpended funds from prior years will be exhausted in FFY 2005. According to state officials' projections, only $37 million will be available for funding TANF initiatives in FFY 2005 due to the reduction in TANF funds transferred to CCDF. Most of Louisiana's TANF expenditures during this period have been for non-assistance service initiatives to low-income populations.

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