WASHINGTON – Citing a lack of existing guardrails to ensure funds are used to actually help people rejoin the workforce, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith (MO-08) and Work and Welfare Subcommittee Chairman Darin LaHood (IL-16) have called on the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct an investigation into the use of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds. Smith and LaHood’s letter to GAO follows a July 12, 2023, hearing of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Work and Welfare that found non-direct assistance funds are easily diverted away from the program’s core purposes and vulnerable to waste, fraud, and abuse.
“Recently, concerns have emerged that TANF non-assistance funds, which make up about 78 percent of combined federal and state spending, lack guardrails and are not focused on helping people transition from welfare to work,” wrote Chairmen Smith and LaHood. “On July 12, 2023, the House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Work and Welfare, held a hearing on: ‘Where is all the Welfare Money Going? Reclaiming TANF Non-Assistance Dollars to Lift Americans Out of Poverty.’ At this hearing, Members heard from witnesses about problems in current law that open the door for diversion of funds away from TANF’s core purposes and creates an environment ripe for waste, fraud, and abuse.
“The Committee’s concerns are exemplified by headlines in Mississippi. Mississippi’s State Auditor, Shad White, has flagged at least $77 million in misused funds from the state’s TANF program from 2017 to 2020, resulting in charges against multiple state officials. At the July 12 hearing, Mr. White testified how critical welfare dollars were used for advertising at a college bowl game, provided to celebrities where no work product was delivered, paid family members of government officials, paid for down payments on homes, iPads for personal use, speeding tickets, and used to rent a field for a private travel softball team. We are concerned that the Mississippi case is emblematic of a systemic problem.”
Based on the Committee’s work thus far, Chairmen Smith and LaHood request that GAO focus on four specific areas of interest:
- State Budgeting and Expenditure Reporting Practices
- Populations Served and Performance Metrics
- Federal and State Audits
- Transfers and Direct Spending
Read the full letter here.
The request follows a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra in June demanding answers from the Biden Administration on what steps it is taking to address reports of fraud and misuse of funds in the TANF program.