State Rep. Gregory W. Porter: Fund finagling raises even more questions about DCS, administration

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INDIANAPOLIS – As the Holcomb Administration prepares to reveal the details of a private study of the scandal-plagued state Department of Child Services (DCS), State Rep. Gregory W. Porter (D-Indianapolis) said today there are substantial concerns about the way officials are funding the agency’s operations.

“In the next few days, we will hear some potential solutions addressing the many problems that face this agency, which is designed to protect the lives of at-risk children,” Porter said. “I know that there already have been concerns raised about the impartiality of this study, since the company doing the studying also helped create the present framework under which DCS operates.

“Those fears aside, I must say that a review of the spending habits of DCS over the past few years raises serious additional concerns that impact state government beyond the operations of DCS,” he continued. “At the very least, it should cause people to ask questions about whether this administration is being totally honest in the way it handles our tax dollars.”

Porter’s concerns were piqued during the April business meeting of the State Budget Committee, when administration officials said DCS will have overspent its budgetary appropriation for the 2018 fiscal year by $284 million by the time of the budget closeout at the end of this month. This news came even after officials received additional emergency funds in both December and January. Porter noted that DCS overspent its budget appropriation by more than $130 million during the 2017 fiscal year.

“These maneuvers haven’t received a lot of attention,” Porter said.  “Officials won’t tell you what’s going on unless you ask them and there isn’t much of a paper trail to follow. Basically, the administration can do this, and they don’t really feel any obligation to tell you about it.”

Equally as disturbing is the fact that overages are financed by siphoning funds from Indiana’s Medicaid and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) programs.

“Is it fair and proper that the state cover the costs for protecting at-risk children? Of course it is, although it certainly is fair to question how that money is being spent at DCS, considering the agency’s history. It is my hope that factors like this will be addressed in the DCS study,” Porter said. “Is it fair that funds are being taken from Medicaid and TANF to cover those costs? That’s something that is worth a more serious discussion than we’ve had to this point.

“I am very disturbed about the use of TANF dollars in this situation,” Porter continued. “TANF was intended to be a temporary measure to get more parents working by providing them with such things as cash assistance, worker training, and child care. It would appear that Indiana has followed the pattern of many other states and implemented such draconian eligibility requirements that most potential applicants don’t even bother to try to get the funds. As a result, states like Indiana tend to use TANF dollars like a slush fund to take care of other things.

“Considering the way these things are being handled, I think it is entirely fair to say this administration’s budget actions are filled with many of the same tricks and gimmicks that officials were quick to condemn in previous years,” Porter concluded. “Let us hope that the coming reckoning involving DCS will encourage this administration to be more open and honest about the way it handles many of the duties of running state government. Based on what I have seen here, I am not optimistic.”

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