ST. PAUL, Minn. – The office of Legislative Auditor James Noble found a number of problems with the Minnesota Department of Human Services’ (DHS) administration of welfare programs in the state.
While the report concludes that the department generally complied with federal guidelines in 2016, there were some issues with the administration. All of the issues highlighted by the auditors are issues that occurred in 2015 as well.
The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program especially drew the ire of the auditors.
“Last year the department’s sample testing identified that for about 49 percent of the families enrolled in the program, the counties were either missing documents to support household members’ relationships, assets or income, or had incomplete applications,” reads the report, “Without this information, the department’s reviewers were unable to determine whether these families were eligible for benefits. This year the department found the county workers did not obtain all required information for about 59 percent of the families.”
TANF benefits are administered at the county level and are primarily funded at the federal level. DHS updated their procedures of training county officials, and better monitoring how those officials performed. The legislative auditor examined ten percent of the cases reviewed by the DHS, and found that of the 24 examined, eight families were correctly labeled by the department as ineligible for the benefits the county gave them.
The department also failed to reduce cash assistance for TANF enrollees who refused to cooperate with child support requirements. Roughly 2,500 people were able to collect full TANF benefits despite failing to meet the federal child support requirements. The auditor’s sample saw a failure to reduce benefits in 17 percent of cases, amounting to $3,935 of incorrectly distributed benefits to just ten people.
10 percent of people receiving medical assistance sampled by the auditor were ineligible for those benefits. These people were ineligible as they failed to report their income or asset levels correctly, including pension income. The four people identified in the auditor’s sample erroneously collected $3,045 in benefits.
“We are encouraged by the progress we’ve made in our internal control environment; this is the fewest findings and recommendations we have had in a single audit since 2001,” DHS Commissioner Emily Johnson Piper told the Pioneer Press, “However, we are disappointed that the … remaining findings are all prior year issues, which we have been unable to resolve.”
In the 2013 fiscal year DHS spent $316 million on programs designed to provide temporary financial support to low-income families with children or low-income pregnant women, according to DHS’ 2016-17 budget.