Arizona's Brewer Orders State to Restore Welfare Amid Shutdown

Tuesday, 08 Oct 2013 07:03 AM

 

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Arizona Governor Jan Brewer ordered welfare officials to use state funds to restore assistance to thousands of families who lost aid because of the partial shutdown of the U.S. government.

Arizona’s Economic Security Department stopped providing cash under the federally funded Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program on Oct. 3, Tasya Peterson, a spokeswoman, said by e-mail. The decision, affecting about 3,200 families, came two days after the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives and the Democratic-run Senate couldn’t agree on spending bills before the fiscal year began this month.

The Republican governor, 69, who has tangled with her party’s leaders over expanding Arizona’s Medicaid program for the poor, directed that $650,000 from the economic agency’s budget be redirected to keep the aid program going through Oct. 31.

“The failure of leadership in Washington is placing a heavy burden on our state, our core services and our citizens most in need,” Brewer said in a statement. “It’s well past time that President Obama begins to negotiate with both parties in Congress in order to resolve the budget impasse.”

About 16,500 families with more than 27,500 children received benefits under the program as of August, according to a report on the economic agency’s website. Payments averaged $202 a month. Because some benefits were paid on Oct. 1 and Oct. 2, not all families in the program had been affected.

Arizona was one of 11 states last year that used only federal money for its aid program, said LaDonna Pavetti of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, based in Washington. Others, including New Mexico, South Carolina and Rhode Island, had funds remaining in the program to carry benefits forward a few weeks, she said.

As the shutdown continues, those states will have to assess their ability to make payments and more families around the country may see their benefits stopped, she said.

Other states use a combination of state and federal funds for the program. If they cover the payments with state money, they will be reimbursed once Congress authorizes legislation to extend funding, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department’s Family Assistance Office told states in a Sept. 30 letter.

“Our TANF families are the poorest of the poor,” said Timothy Schmaltz, coordinator of the Protecting Arizona’s Family Coalition, which advocates on behalf of low-income people and sent a letter to Brewer today asking her to take action. “If you don’t have money for utilities or rent or transportation to work, it’s tough,” he said.


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