Arizona Governor Jan Brewer yesterday stepped in to ensure that 3,200 very low income families in the state will continue to receive funding provided through the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.
TANF is a program that provides cash assistance to families with children. The heads of such families can get this assistance are expected to find employment within 24 months. The program was created as part of welfare reform put into place by President Bill Clinton 1996.
States can opt out of TANF, but none have done so. For about a week, Arizona was the only state that stopped issuing TANF payments during the federal government shutdown. Most states add additional support to TANF; Arizona is one of just 11 that do not. The other ten states automatically stepped into to fill funding gaps. Brewer tapped into the state's rainy-day fund to cover the $655,000 normally provided by the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Several Democrats in the state legislature called on Brewer to use the rainy-day funds last week. The federal government says it will reimburse states for their TANF expenditures once a federal budget has been signed.
Earlier this month and before the government shutdown, Arizona distributed TANF funds to about 13,300 families in Arizona, about 80% of the total families in the state that receive the assistance, according to a statement on the governor's website. "The Governor's direction to DES [Department of Economic Security] will ensure these [additional] families receive their support retroactively through the end of October," the statement says.
Should the federal shutdown continue into next month, Arizonans who receive assistance through the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program could see their benefits interrupted.
There will be no interruption in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also called food stamps), Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security support.
“The failure of leadership in Washington is placing a heavy burden on our state, our core services and our citizens most in-need. Simply put, Arizona cannot afford to pay the federal government’s bills," Brewer said in her statement, careful to conclude that President Obama is responsible for the crisis.