While every other state in the nation has kept welfare programs afloat amid the federal government shutdown, Arizona has opted to become the exception to that rule.
Now, 5,200 Arizona families won’t be receiving funds from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which pays out an average of $207 per week for each eligible family. Even though the federal government guaranteed reimbursement, Arizona politicians are unwilling to temporarily grant poverty-stricken residents any money out of the state’s own pocket.
With a $450 million emergency fund in the bank, the state can afford to continue welfare. The program costs the state about $1 million per week.
Democrats are pressing Governor Jan Brewer, a highly conservative Republican, to reopen the program.
“The rainy-day fund is for emergencies, and this is an emergency,” said Democratic Senate Minority Leader Leah Landrum Taylor. “This is beyond hurting the families ... Families are relying upon this.”
Indeed, families eligible for the program may be unable to pay for basic needs like food and housing without assistance. However, Department of Economic Security Director Clarence Carter is reportedly insisting that the state has no funds available to help them.
“So the ball is in the governor’s court. She would either need to release emergency funds or call the Legislature back into session,” said Democratic Representative Debbie McCune Davis. “These are resources that are going to the most needy families in our state. They are families with children who are very unlikely to have any cash reserves to fall back on.”
Arizona’s Native American population, which relies on federal funding for education and medical care, is also among those hit hardest by the shutdown, even as lawmakers continue to receive their own salaries.