Work First program suspended
Fifty-eight families in Caldwell County will no longer receive three months of emergency money through the Work First program if the federal shutdown lasts to November, and starting Monday the state stopped allowing new applications.
North Carolina suspended the federally funded program, also known as Temporary Aid to Needy Families, for the unemployed and underemployed Monday. The state Department of Health and Human Services told county social services offices they could no longer process or approve Work First applications or renew any current recipients until further notice. October cash payments have already been sent to those eligible.
"Hopefully something will be worked out so the federal government can restore these benefits," said Joyce Edwards, social services director. "So many people are being hurt by this and are depending on this money for their dependent children."
Work First is designed to help families stay off welfare by supplying limited cash benefits, child care, food stamps and Medicaid for up to three months. More than 20,700 families in North Carolina received $4.8 million in Work First benefits in September.
North Carolina so far is the only state in the country to suspend TANF benefits. Other states and the District of Columbia opted to continue their programs using state funds and anticipated federal reimbursements.
Locally, social services has 58 active Work First cases, 57 of which are "child only" cases involving 80 children. A "child only" case means one in which the child lives with someone other than a parent, and the benefits are for the child's basic needs. These children may be living with relatives or someone else who has legal custody. The monthly expenditure for all 58 cases is $11,700.
"Currently, we are able to take applications for Work First cash assistance, but we cannot process them until further notice from the state," Edwards said. "We make referrals to Vocational Rehabilitation, work on job search and skill development, and arrange work experience placements in an effort to assist individuals to become employed."
The state will send out notifications to Work First clients on Friday, giving clients the required 10-day notice that they will not receive a check for November.