State Welfare Cases Drop, Medicaid Rises

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A rebound in Nevada's economy and the creation of new jobs are combining to keep the number of welfare recipients below projections.

The state Welfare Division said Wednesday there were 25,555 recipients in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program in December, up 2.7 percent from the previous month.

Division administrator Nancy Ford said the December number was 27 percent lower than the high of 35,122 in May 2002.

The 2003 Legislature appropriated enough money for an average of 31,021 individuals this fiscal year and 33,249 individuals next fiscal year. For the first six months of this fiscal year, the average has been 26,153.

Gov. Kenny Guinn said the declining welfare numbers "is good news for taxpayers," but added the state has to carefully monitor the program.

"We have seen cost savings of $3.4 million in TANF for the first half of the fiscal year," Guinn said. But he said cost savings are offset by the continued growth in Medicaid and food stamps.

Ford said the division has concentrated on getting recipients to search for jobs earlier in the application process.

While welfare numbers are declining, Medicaid caseloads are rising, the division said. In December, there were 171,798 people enrolled in the program that provides medical care for the needy. That's down 0.27 percent from November, but 4 percent higher than the same month a year ago.

The Legislature allocated money for an average caseload this year of 178,126 and for 194,847 next fiscal year. For the first six months of this fiscal year the average caseload has been 170,529.

The division said the number of those drawing food stamps fell by 1 percent in November to 117,601. The state pays for the administration of the program but does not pay for the grants to the recipients.

This was the second straight month of a decline from a record high of 119,538 registered in September this year. Food stamp reporting is a month behind welfare and Medicaid.