Louisiana auditors find problems with social work verification

The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services has failed to ensure compliance with work verification requirements for federal cash assistance for the tenth consecutive year, according to the Louisiana Legislative Auditor.

Louisiana Legislative Auditor Mike Waguespack released a audit report for the Ministry of Children and Family Services on Wednesday, which found that the agency failed to provide case management services to recipients of cash assistance from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program between July 2020 and April 2021.

The discovery marked the tenth consecutive year that state auditors have reported exceptions with internal controls and compliance with the requirement, which includes determining when a TANF recipient is ready for work.

“Federal regulations require a parent or guardian receiving assistance to engage in work activities when the state has determined that the individual is ready to engage in work,” the auditors wrote.

DCFS became responsible for managing TANF cases on July 1, 2020, after taking over from the Louisiana Workforce Commission. DCFS created a new workforce development section to manage and conduct these services, but did not begin until May 2021, according to the report.

“In addition, DCFS contracted with Mathematica, a national consulting firm, to develop case management and train case management coaches to work with participants, which took additional time,” the report said. . “Additional delays have occurred due to DCFS employees being pulled from their regular duties to assist with emergency response.”

The auditors noted that “non-compliance could result in state sanctions imposed by the federal licensor.”

Auditors further found that DCFS did not have a process to ensure that $16 million of TANF grant funds transferred to the Social Services Block Grant were used only for programs or services for low-income children. or their families, as required by law.

“Furthermore, the report on SSBG expenditures included all individuals who received services through other federal programs that may be supported by SSBG funds rather than only individuals who actually received services paid for at all. or in part with funds from SSBG, as needed,” listeners wrote.

Louisiana’s Legislative Auditor recommended that DCFS ensure that case management services are provided to all TANF recipients and “maintain controls to ensure that expenditures related to TANF funds transferred to SSBG are used for child and family related services that meet income requirements and establish procedures to properly prepare the SSBG post-expenditure report. »

DCFS Secretary Marketa Garner Walters responded to the findings with letters to Waguespack on December 13, 2021 and June 10, 2022 that acknowledged the issues and explained how the agency planned to address them.

Walters wrote that “it took time to restructure the division, hire staff, train, develop and implement contracts” when DCFS took over case management for cash assistance recipients eligible to work in July 2020.

“Improvements in technology systems were needed to document the TANF/STEP program and provide reports for data analysis. DCFS worked with vendors to align the Louisiana Integrated Technology for Eligibility system with Goal4It! Model used to coach STEP participants. DCFS worked with the Office of Technology Services to obtain permission to use the Tuapath system, which allows participants to report work activities and communicate in real time with staff,” Walters wrote in December. “Improving the LITE system and implementing Tuapath will help DCFS report on work activities and track improvement actions.”

In June, she wrote that “the Child Protection Program is working with Tax, Budget and Cost Allocation to create written procedures that document the department’s process to ensure that fund expenditures TANF transferred to SSBG are used for child and family related services that meet income requirements and ensure that the SSBG expense report is properly prepared.”

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