ain't enough as it is," she said, her 1-year-old son, Correz,
perched on her hip as she left a Department of Human
Services office near downtown Nashville. "It's not enough
so how are they going to take from that?"
Tennessee's welfare program is about 10 percent poorer than
it used to be, and state officials don't expect to get that
money back anytime soon.
for supplemental grants through the federal Temporary
Assistance for Needy
program ran out at the end of June, well before the fiscal
year ends in October.
led to uncertainty in Tennessee and the 16 other states that
have received the grants each year since welfare reform
passed in 1996.
Tennessee stands to lose $21.6 million in supplemental
grants annually. That's more than 10 percent of the $191.5
million in federal welfare money the state will get this
were hoping that (the cut) wouldn't happen but expecting
that it probably would," said Wanda Franklin, director of
Families First at the Tennessee Department of Human
Services. "We've been trying to figure out how we're going
to provide for our clients in the ways we have been
providing for them - in other words, to try to streamline
our program, make it more practical and
do it with less money."
Franklin said the agency has not set specific plans for
money but said
they would generally involve collaborating with other state
departments or local agencies to provide services.
said it's doubtful the state will provide extra
the $82.8 million it now spends to compensate for the
dwindling federal dollars. But service cuts, benefit
reductions and eligibility restrictions are not planned,
in the process of trying to see how we're going to manage
and make it look as seamless as possible to the client," she
said. "We're going to be as effective and efficient as we
people such as Haynes, resources already seem to be
stretched thin. Haynes, 24, receives a voucher for child
care, but she said it has left her spending $100 a month on
day care while she performed mandatory community service to
keep her benefits.
also receives a stipend of $10 a week for transportation,
but that has not been enough to cover the cost to get to and
from the service site.
end, Haynes, in an interview outside the DHS office, said
she could not afford to meet the community service
requirement and had her benefits suspended.
there are still no jobs," she said.
welfare law allocated a block grant to each state based on
how much the state had spent on welfare in the past. That
locked states that had traditionally spent less - mostly
poorer states - into low federal grants.
up for this, Congress provided $319 million in supplemental
grants to 17 states that traditionally spent less on
benefits, such as Tennessee, and states with high population
growth. Lawmakers also created a $1.3 billion welfare
contingency fund for states hit especially hard in bad
welfare law came up for reauthorization last year, Congress
extended it until the end of fiscal 2011 but didn't fully
fund the supplemental and contingency grants. As a result,
the contingency fund expired in December and supplemental
grants expired July 1.
said Tennessee considers the cuts permanent. Policy experts
also doubt Congress will reinstate the funding for fiscal
say some lawmakers consider the grants a dispensable add-on,
even though they were created to resolve major inequities in
welfare funding, and even though states such as Tennessee
don't use the money any differently from basic block-grant
"Supplemental grants are more at risk than baseline grants
because they're seen as an increase in spending," said Ron
Haskins, an economist at the Brookings Institution who
advised President George W. Bush's administration on welfare
"Everything's at risk at this point because Republicans are
really vigilant about spending," he said.
say even the basic welfare block grants, which total about
$16.5 billion, could be reduced.
cutting is the new reality," said Don Bruce, an economist at
the University of Tennessee who studies welfare. "If we want
to have money for Social
Medicare and Medicaid, these other things are going to be
cut, unless people are willing to stomach a revenue
Tennessee welfare recipients got an average of $178 per
month in state and federal welfare assistance, according to
an analysis of Census Bureau
That's less than recipients got anywhere else in the
maximum monthly benefit a family of three can receive in
Tennessee is $185, according to the Urban Institute. Only
Mississippi has a lower limit at $170 per month.
states receiving supplemental grants pay low benefits,
according to LaDonna Pavetti, vice president for family
income support policy at the Center on Budget and Policy
states that didn't have a lot of money for poor people to
start with," she said. "Many are states that had pretty
significant budget problems."
states received an average $712 in federal welfare money in
2009 for each child from a low-income family, according to a
report Pavetti co-authored in June. Of that, $643 came from
block grants and $69 came from supplemental grants.
Child poverty high
states that don't receive supplemental grants received an
average of $1,436 per poor child, the report said.
receiving supplemental grants also have higher rates of
child poverty, according to the report: 22 percent, versus
18 percent in other states. Tennessee's child poverty rate
is 23 percent, according to the National Center for Children
got a boost in welfare funding from the 2009 stimulus act,
which created a $5 billion emergency welfare fund to help
states cope with higher caseloads during the recession.
Tennessee received $50.3 million from the fund, which
expired in September.
said Tennessee's caseload grew at roughly the same rate as
the national average during the recession and has barely
come down since peaking in November at nearly 165,000
people. In April, the latest month for which data was
available, 156,000 Tennesseans were enrolled in welfare.
more cases and less funding, Pavetti said, states may resort
to cutting benefit amounts, reducing the length of time
recipients can remain on welfare or eliminating other
support services such as job training.