BOISE – An official with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says an Idaho agency spent $2.5 million in leftover welfare funding correctly, contrary to the findings of a state audit.
Idaho’s Legislative Services Office released an audit last week that examined how state agencies spent federal money. In the report, the auditors concluded that the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare wrongly used the money left over from the 2008 budget for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to cover salaries instead of using it to help pay for food, housing and other assistance.
But department officials contested the auditors’ finding, saying that federal rules changed at the start of fiscal year 2009 to allow states to spend leftover funds on all services that help keep needy families together – including the costs of providing those services, like salaries. The department used the money to cover part of the salaries of social workers who focused on keeping the state’s poorest children out of foster care by placing them with extended family members when their parents could not care for them.
After the audit was released, state welfare officials sought guidance from the federal agency to see if they’d done the right thing.
Yes, said Karen Code in an email sent to the state Friday.
Code, a financial operations specialist for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ federal grant region, said the rule change lifted the spending restrictions on carry-over money, including carry-over funds from 2008.