Welfare Reform:

Challenges in Saving for a Rainy Day

GAO-01-674T: Published: Apr 26, 2001. Publicly Released: Apr 26, 2001.

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This testimony discusses states' plans for operating their Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) programs in the event of an economic downturn. GAO found that the data available on the levels and adequacy of states' reserves is insufficient and misleading. Furthermore, most states have done little planning for economic contingencies. Many states cite obstacles to saving money for possible economic downturns. Although TANF funds can be set aside in a budgetary reserve, state officials said that they are concerned that the accumulation of unspent TANF funds might signal that the funds are not needed. Another option for states would be to save their own funds in a general purpose rainy day account, but state officials said that welfare would have to compete with other state priorities when these funds are released from state treasuries. There are now federal contingency mechanisms for states to access additional federal resources in the event of a recession or other emergency--the Contingency Fund for State Welfare Programs and the Federal Loan for State Welfare Programs. However, states generally found these programs too complex and restrictive, and would most likely find other ways to sustain their welfare programs.

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