North Carolina has become the first state to cease processing applications for its welfare program, the state-wide version of the national Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), in response to the government shutdown.
If the government is not reopened by November, those currently enrolled in the welfare program will not receive their benefits. Operations are scheduled to continue as normal throughout the month of October, despite the continued shutdown. This news affects over 20,000 of North Carolina’s residents that are currently enrolled in the program, as well as all those attempting to apply for the benefits.
Although North Carolina is the first state to officially announce plans to end its TANF funding, the federal government actually cut spending for TANF programs nationwide when the shutdown began. All other states aside from North Carolina continue to fund the programs using state money.
According to the Charlotte Observer, most states have not yet stopped TANF funding because the federal government, specifically the U.S. Health and Human Services Family Assistance Office, had promised them before October 1st they would receive a reimbursement were a shutdown to occur.
The Charlotte publication argues that the failure continue funding TANF despite the shutdown is an “unnecessary" a political move by the state’s anti-welfare proponents. The state had previously been the only one in the nation to cut its Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Food and Nutrition service, an action that it quickly reversed.
With talks in the White House and Congress appearing to gain traction, it’s unlikely that any of the TANF benefits will truly be halted in the state, but North Carolina’s decision does exemplify growing concerns about the consequences of a prolonged shutdown.
While many impoverished residents greatly benefit from North Carolina’s TANF programs, the success of the programs has declined in recent years. Still, the program’s benefits have decreased poverty by at least 0.3%, which equals hundreds of thousands of individuals. If the government shutdown continues and the state’s TANF benefits are no longer provided, many people would experience unfortunate, real effects.