States Had a Variety of Reasons for Not Spending Program Funds

RCED-97-166: Published: Jun 12, 1997. Publicly Released: Jun 12, 1997.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed states' unspent funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) in fiscal year (FY) 1995, focusing on: (1) the reasons that states had unspent recoverable WIC funds; and (2) whether unspent recoverable funds indicated that states had more WIC funds available than necessary to meet their needs.

GAO noted that: (1) state officials identified a variety of reasons why their states had unspent recoverable funds; (2) some of these reasons were related to how WIC is structured; (3) for example, because the federal grant is the only source of funds for WIC in most states, states exercise caution to ensure that they do not spend more than their federal grant; (4) in addition, because states use vouchers and checks to distribute food benefits, it is difficult for them to determine the program's food costs until the vouchers and checks have been redeemed and processed; (5) some other reasons contributing to states' having unspent recoverable funds relate to specific situations or circumstances that limited program participation; (6) for example, in one state the installation of a new computer system temporarily reduced the amount of time clinic staff had to certify and serve new clients because they had to instead spend time learning new software and operating procedures; (7) having unspent recoverable funds does not necessarily indicate a lack of need for program benefits; and (8) according to all eight WIC directors who GAO contacted in states having FY 1995 unspent recoverable funds, more eligible individuals could have been served by WIC had it not been for reasons such as those identified above.

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