Children and Family Services manage and administer most of Vermont’s welfare services and financial assistance. The department’s budget in fiscal year 2016 was $388.8 million. The final fiscal year 2016 budget for each major functional department is outlined below.
Department of Children and Family Services; Fiscal 2016 Budget
|Department||Amount ($ millions)|
|Woodside Rehabilitation Center||4.8|
Federal funds provide just over $200 million, or about 52%, of the department’s total funding. While Medicaid provides a meaningful portion of federal funding, the majority of federal money comes from a variety of national welfare programs.
Before describing the activities of each of the above operations, a quick overview of key federal welfare programs will be helpful.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This is the food stamp program, which provides food to low-income individuals and families. Participants receive a debit card that is accepted by grocery stores for the purchase of food. The US Department of Agriculture, which runs SNAP, also has a Child Nutrition program targeting low-income households with free or reduced price meals, including school lunch, breakfast and after school programs. SNAP is 100% federal funded.
Earned Income Tax Credit. Administered by the IRS, this program provides tax refunds or rebates to working low-income citizens, thereby boosting their incomes. It is one of the country’s better welfare programs as it promotes work and is designed in such a fashion that one dollar of incremental wage is always worth more than one dollar of incremental tax credit. Vermont has adopted the Earned Income Tax Credit with respect to state income tax.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). This is a combined federal and state program that pays cash to low-income households with the twin objectives of taking care of children and moving adults from welfare to work.
Child Care and Development Fund. This is a federal block grant program that provides funding for childcare facilities for low-income families.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This program pays cash to low-income individuals over 65 years of age or under 65 years of age if they are disabled or blind. This program is 100% funded by the federal government and run by the Social Security Administration.
Head Start. This is a pre-school program for low-income children.
Job Training Programs. There are a variety of job training programs administered by the US Department of Labor for low-income individuals.
Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). This program helps low-income families meet home heating and/or cooling costs.
With that as background, lets take a look at the operations of the Department of Children and Family Services in a bit more detail.
Family Services, with a budget of $99.7 million, is the rough end of the business when it comes to welfare services. This department conducts child abuse and neglect investigations, provides child protective services, manages the juvenile detention and probation programs and regulates adoption and foster care. The state’s Social Workers are housed here.
Child Development, with a budget of $81.1 million, is aligned with the federal government’s Child Care and Development Fund and provides funding for childcare, after school programs and training of childcare practitioners.
Child Support, with a budget of $13.7 million, serves custodial families and seeks to enforce child support payment obligations. Basically, this department works to get fathers (or mothers) to make their child support payments to keep their children and the responsible parent off the welfare system.
Disability Determination: This department is responsible for determining eligibility for the Supplemental Security Income program on behalf of the Social Security Administration.
Office of Economic Opportunity: The focus here is on emergency food and shelter and homelessness. This department also manages home weatherization programs.
Economic Services. Food stamps (called 3SquaresVt in Vermont), TANF (called Reach Up in Vermont), home heating fuel assistance and certain job training programs all flow through this department. With a 2016 budget of $107.8 million, it represents the largest expenditure in the Children and Family Services Department.
There are some other large welfare programs managed outside of the Agency of Human Services, including housing assistance and the Earned Income Tax Credit. The Informed Vermonter will publish a more comprehensive series of articles regarding the state’s welfare programs and costs at a later date.