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Mississippi Advocacy Groups Urge Public Engagement in TANF Hearing 

Impacted Families, Advocates and Experts Will Convene at the State Capitol to Discuss the Misspending of TANF Funds and How the State Can Work Toward an Accountable and Transparent Assistance Program 

 

JACKSON, MS — Advocacy groups from across the state are urging public participation during a Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) hearing that will be held at the Mississippi State Capitol. Families directly impacted by TANF criteria and the misappropriation of the program’s funding, are encouraged to attend.  

“The lack of oversight in the Mississippi TANF program is consistent with that of other southern states that have not used the funds in line with the needs or the economic realities of the people it was created to serve. We believe the problem lies with the overall structure of the TANF program from the federal level and call for more safeguards to make sure it does not continue to be misused. We look forward to a thorough federal review of the program so its intended purpose can be maximized” said Vangela Wade, President and CEO of the Mississippi Center for Justice. 

In 2021, the state auditor’s office announced that an investigation into TANF spending spending showed more than $77 million dollars meant for the most vulnerable communities in the state, were fraudulently misspent. Impacted families, advocacy groups and state and national policy experts, will address the challenges faced by families who continue to suffer due to years of misappropriated funding and convoluted TANF requirements. 

“It is important that the public come out to advocate for better TANF criteria and accountability from state leaders, said Sonya Williams-Barnes, State Policy Director for the Southern Poverty Law Center. It is egregious that, in fiscal year 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 global pandemic, that Mississippi had $102,156,439 in federal TANF dollars to spend but only chose to allocate $55 million of that, ending the year with $47 million unobligated. It is unfathomable that federal money designated to provide aid to needy families and children is not making into the households; people are not being given the opportunity to receive this much needed assistance. We will also emphasize the need for reform and explain the tremendous burden that will fall on taxpayers if the state is found guilty of fraud and ordered to repay more than 100 million dollars of TANF funds.” 

Current policies related to TANF are connected to the crux of several issues that detrimentally affect poor people and other marginalized groups that depend on program benefits. Eligibility in Mississippi is based on family income with standards dictating no more than the following for a family of three: 

$200 for the first person 

$36 for the second person 

$24 for each additional person 

Mississippi ranks as the poorest state in the nation. The state has also been designated with the highest child poverty rate in the country.  

Advocates at the hearing intend on ensuring that the needs of Mississippians living in poverty are addressed and that they are not punished or exploited because if their economic status.  

The public hearing for TANF is scheduled for 10 a.m. October 18th in Room 216 at the New Stat Capitol Building located at 400 High St. in Jackson, Miss. The hearing is open to the public and will include remarks from recipients of TANF, representatives from state advocacy groups and policy experts. 

Participating advocacy groups include: Mississippi Low-Income Childcare Initiative, Springboard to Opportunities, National Association of Social Workers-Mississippi Chapter, One Voice, Southern Rural Black Women's Initiative, Children's Defense Fund-Southern Regional, Southern Echo, Mississippi Center for Justice, ACLU Mississippi, Mississippi Black Women's Roundtable, and SPLC Action Fund.

Both House and Senate Minority Leaders will preside.