States Struggling with Welfare Reform

WASHINGTON (05/02/2000) - Social programs are suffering because state automated systems cannot support welfare reform, according to a report from the U.S.

General Accounting Office. The report recommends that a federal interagency group be established to help states improve the systems.

The information systems do not always fully support state and local efforts to find recipients jobs, the report says. In addition, the systems make it difficult to obtain information from various agencies and on individual cases, and they cannot accurately provide program oversight.

Those shortcomings make it difficult to enforce the five-year limit on benefits, arrange for and provide services, and respond to problems, according to the GAO report, issued to Congress April 27. GAO surveyed 15 states and 15 localities for the report.

Furthermore, states face several obstacles to improving their systems, including the magnitude of welfare reform, difficulties with managing information technology projects, competition with the private sector for skilled IT workers and complex federal funding.

Although some of those obstacles are best addressed by the states, according to the report, the federal government could provide better assistance. The report recommends that the secretary of the Department Health and Human Services create a group that includes high-level federal officials from agencies including HHS and the departments of Agriculture and Labor to identify and address possible federal actions.

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