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Missouri auditor questions welfare expenses

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich released a report Tuesday questioning Missouri's use of millions of federal dollars to provide welfare benefits to low-income residents.

In an audit of $12.7 billion in federal funds received by Missouri last year, Schweich raised concerns about $68 million in expenses incurred mainly by programs run by the Department of Social Services. His largest concern focused on expenses in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which also has drawn scrutiny in past years.

Schweich contends the department improperly used $32.4 million of federal TANF funds for foster care, adoption assistance and subsidized guardianship costs. He also said $24.2 million was improperly spent on college scholarships for TANF recipients.

The department disagreed with Schweich's conclusions and said the expenditures are allowable under federal guidelines.

The audit also questioned whether state caseworkers had properly determined the eligibility of some welfare recipients and said that 42 percent of the 60 cases it sampled lacked adequate documentation that recipients were meeting their work-related requirements.

"When people are fraudulently getting money they're not supposed to get — or negligently getting money they're not supposed to get — that takes money away from people who really are entitled to the program funds," Schweich said.

Among other things, the audit said a Department of Social Services program that provides child care subsidies for low-income parents had paid $243,382 in federal funds to 680 child care providers for 2,900 children who appeared to be no longer in their care.

Also, the audit said the Department of Health and Senior Services had failed to perform the required annual eligibility verifications on more than two-thirds of the cases it sampled for seniors and disabled residents who receive Medicaid-funded home health and living services.