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DCF Secretary Describes TANF Spending
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Dear Editor,
The Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) has many important responsibilities, including overseeing state and federal funds that serve our mission: to protect children, promote healthy families and encourage personal responsibility. In recent weeks, DCF has been criticized for maintaining a healthy reserve in its Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) fund. I would like to take this opportunity to clarify the use of TANF funding.
 TANF is a federal program and since the 1996 welfare reforms, Kansas has received a yearly Federal block grant of $101.9 million for TANF. The amount is set legislatively at the federal level. It does not change based on when cash assistance caseloads increase or decrease.
The federal program is designed to be a welfare-to-work program. The objective is to help families in need temporarily, while assisting adults to obtain training, counseling, their GED or high school diploma, or certification through the Kansas Work Force Centers making people readily employable. Preventing poverty is one of the primary purposes of TANF. That’s why DCF has and continues to use TANF funds to prevent future poverty—breaking the cycle for generations to come. Prevention programs are not a quick fix, but they are effective.
In order to sustain the current programs and invest in future efforts that will help prevent poverty, DCF has maintained a TANF reserve fund. This reserve fund is not unique to the current Administration. Its balance is $48 million. Here’s a look at the reserve fund amounts over multiple years and administrations.
FY2004, $34.2 million; FY2005, $31.1 million; FY2006, $21.8 million; FY2007, $15 million; FY2008, $22.1; FY2009, $25.4; FY2010, $48.7 million; FY2011 million, $20.5 million; FY2012, $37.4 million; FY2013, $41.6 million
DCF invests TANF dollars into worth-while programs that help prevent poverty. Current and future investment in poverty-prevention programs in no way impacts the amount of cash assistance individuals receive.
Some examples of how TANF funds are currently and have been used in the past include family preservation services, employment services, Kansas Early Head Start and domestic violence and sexual assault programs.
While some have argued that there are no jobs available, we and our partners at the Kansas Department of Commerce will gladly work with these individuals who are having trouble finding employment. The economy is improving and there are jobs available.
We certainly know that not every job will allow a family to make ends meet. That’s why we have a wide range of assistance programs to get families through those tough times. The State of Kansas wants families to succeed and find they can be self-sufficient, not having to live in poverty which is where relying on Government benefits leads.  We will continue to do all we can to help individuals in the short-term with temporary assistance but we also want to ensure long-term success through employment and prevention.
Phyllis Gilmore
Secretary, Kansas Department for Children and Families