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Progressive Pulse - US Reps. Question McCrory on Stopping Program for Poor While State Money Going to Reopen National Park

October 16, 2013
In The News

By Sarah Ovaska
Three Democratic members of North Carolina’s Congressional delegation want to know why North Carolina is again shutting down a federal benefits program while other states are able to keep the programs operating during the federal government shutdown.

“It has come to our attention that North Carolina is the lone anomaly in deciding to discontinue the operation of the the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program,” wrote Reps. G.K. Butterfield, David Price and Mel Watt in a letter today to Gov. Pat McCrory. “While other states are maintaing their TANF programs, North Carolina has ceased processing new applications. It is the only state in the country to do so.”

The congressmen wrote Tuesday in their letter (click here to read) to McCrory, a Republican, that they were concerned the cut-off of TANF was a “disturbing trend” where North Carolina, unlike other states, is opting to shut down emergency programs for vulnerable residents.

A DHHS spokeswoman told WRAL yesterday that the agency did not have enough confidence the state would be reimbursed by the federal government if other funds were used to keep TANF fully running. North Carolina also temporarily halted issuing vouchers for infant formula and food as part of the federally-funded WIC program for two days last week,

The trio of Congressmen asked McCrory to reissue benefits as well, and said that the federal government plans on reimbursing states once the shutdown is over.

Meanwhile, McCrory’s office sent out a press release early Tuesday evening saying the governor approved using $75,000 in state funds to, along with Tennessee government officials, reopen the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which straddles the North Carolina and Tennessee border.

“This is about jobs and the economy,” McCrory said, according to a written statement.

North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services suspended taking applications for Work First, or TANF, on Monday. The federally-funded program seeks to keep family off of long-term welfare or other benefits programs by extending up to three months of emergency benefits for families in crisis situations. The program also primarily helps children — out of the 20,709 North Carolinians enrolled in the program, two-thirds were children living with someone other than their parent, including those in foster care, according to the News & Observer.

Other states have continued to fund TANF, leaning on assurances of repayment once the government shutdown is over.

It’s a similiar scenario to North Carolina’s decision last week to stop issuing formula and food vouchers last week as part of the Woman, Infants and Children program, as reported by N.C. Policy Watch on Thursday afternoon. DHHS Sec. Aldona Wos announced that evening that WIC benefits would resume after finding monies to restart the program.