Friday, May 23, 2008

Rep. Marcus Oshiro Takes Issue with Director Koller on TANF Spending

There is an on-going debate between the legislature and the administration on spending Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds. Lillian Koller, the Director of Human Services, wants to spend down the reserve in order to service beneficiaries and programs. She wrote an op-ed for The Advertiser on May 22nd - view it here.

The Finance Chair, Rep. Marcus Oshiro, disagrees with that strategy. He believes Koller's policy to spend down the TANF reserve fund is irresponsible and leaves welfare families without a safety net by the year 2010. (At which point, the current administration will be out of office and a new administration will have to deal with any fallout.)

Here are the major discrepancies from the legislature's perspective:

Koller says: "In attempting to justify their misguided actions, the Senate and House budget committee chairs — Sen. Rosalyn Baker and Rep. Marcus Oshiro — claimed they had to impose severe spending cuts or the TANF reserve would be depleted in a year and a half.
This is simply untrue."

Oshiro says: A memo dated April 7, 2008, signed by Koller herself, shows a negative $16.1 million balance on June 30, 2010. Here is Oshiro's request to the department. Koller's response is here. (Negative balance is on page 4 spreadsheet.)

Koller says: "Every October we receive an infusion of nearly $99 million for our annual TANF block grant."

Oshiro says: Director Koller fails to mention that she was proposing to spend $137.6 million every year, or $38 million more than what the state receives.

Koller says: "The truth is welfare cases are dropping every year — regardless of economic conditions — as needy parents transition from welfare to employment or exhaust their five years of TANF eligibility."

Oshiro says: According to recent data, welfare cases across the nation are starting to rise. Here's a link to a May 5th USA Today articles which reports: "State welfare rolls, which declined for more than a decade after a 1996 overhaul of the nation's cash-assistance program, are beginning to rise, due in part to the struggling economy."

Koller says: "Compounding this problem, the Legislature denied more than $46 million in grant-in-aid requests from nearly 140 nonprofit groups."

Oshiro says: "When we saw how many millions had not been released from LAST YEAR, it was difficult to justify spending more money that would probably just sit there and not be released either. The Lingle/Aiona administration is hypocritical to say that we don't care about the needy. Just look at all the money that they are holding up, and you have to ask for what purpose? How does this serve the poor, the sick and the needy of our state? The money is there, we have accounted for it in the budget, and it just needs to be released."

For more information, here a link to the department's TANF financial plan.

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