States struggle with welfare reform

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 said. 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 of Health and Human

Services convene a group of 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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