Y2K threatens federal, state welfare programs

A top federal welfare official told Congress today that federal welfare programs that are managed at the state level could be disrupted next year because some states are behind in fixing computers for the Year 2000 problem.

Olivia Golden, assistant secretary for the Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, told members of the House Ways and Means Committee that some states have not made Year 2000 fixes a priority and that she was not sure all 50 states could deliver child welfare services.

Golden said many of the states are on track with their Year 2000 efforts but some states do not have contingency plans in place in case computers fail and state welfare agencies cannot deliver checks to needy families. Golden declined to name the states where computers are most at risk of disrupting programs such as child support enforcement, child care and child welfare. Golden said the administration is working on refining state-by-state information to determine what states are most at risk.

"We are requiring that at-risk states produce an acceptable contingency plan to ensure the continued collection and disbursement of child support payments in the event that the state does not complete Year 2000 remediation efforts in time," she said.

The Administration for Children and Families oversees programs that provide benefit to needy families with children who do not have financial support because their parents have died, are absent, incapacitated or unemployed. Last year, 8 million children received assistance from the administration. In fiscal 1997, federal and state agencies spent just under $14 billion to maintain the program, with $8 billion coming from the federal government and states picking up the remainder.

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