Charitable Choice: Federal Guidance on Statutory Provisions Could Improve Consistency of Implementation

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A letter report issued by the General Accounting Office with an abstract that begins "The federal government spends billions of dollars annually to provide services to the needy directly, or through contracts with a large network of social service providers. Faith-based organizations (FBO), such as churches and religiously affiliated entities, are a part of this network and have a long history of providing social services to needy families and individuals. In the past, religious organizations were required to secularize their services and premises, so that their social service activities were distinctly separate from their religious activities, as a condition of ... continued below

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United States. General Accounting Office. September 10, 2002.

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Description

A letter report issued by the General Accounting Office with an abstract that begins "The federal government spends billions of dollars annually to provide services to the needy directly, or through contracts with a large network of social service providers. Faith-based organizations (FBO), such as churches and religiously affiliated entities, are a part of this network and have a long history of providing social services to needy families and individuals. In the past, religious organizations were required to secularize their services and premises, so that their social service activities were distinctly separate from their religious activities, as a condition of receiving public funds. Beginning with the passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, Congress enacted "charitable choice" provisions, which authorized religious organizations to compete on the same basis as other organizations for federal funding under certain programs without having to alter their religious character or governance. The statutory provisions cover several programs, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Welfare to Work. Similar provisions also apply to the Community Services Block Grant and the substance abuse prevention and treatment programs. GAO found that faith-based organizations receive a small proportion of the government funding provided to nongovernmental contractors. Contracts with faith-based organizations accounted for 8 percent of the $1 billion in federal and state TANF funds spent by state governments on contracts with nongovernmental entities in 2001. Although charitable choice was intended to allow FBOs to contract with government in these programs, several factors continue to constrain the ability of small FBOs to contract with the government. These factors include FBO's lack of awareness of funding opportunities, limited administrative and financial capacity, inexperience with government contracting, and beliefs about the separation of church and state. State and local officials differed in their understanding and implementation of certain charitable choice safeguards, such as the prohibition on the use of federal funds for religious worship or instruction; however, the incidence of problems involving safeguards is unknown. Faith-based organizations are held accountable for performance in the same way as other organizations contracting with the government. However, little information is available to compare the performance of FBOs to that of other organizations."

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Government Accountability Office Reports

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for the U.S. Congress investigating how the federal government spends taxpayers' money. Its goal is to increase accountability and improve the performance of the federal government. The Government Accountability Office Reports Collection consists of over 13,000 documents on a variety of topics ranging from fiscal issues to international affairs.

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  • September 10, 2002

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  • June 11, 2014, 5:03 a.m.

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United States. General Accounting Office. Charitable Choice: Federal Guidance on Statutory Provisions Could Improve Consistency of Implementation, report, September 10, 2002; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc293528/: accessed May 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.