08/10/2012 05:15 pm ET

Charities Helping Struggling States Make Welfare Payments: GAO

Faced with tight budgets and needy residents, state governments are increasingly turning to third parties like charities to keep their funding commitments to welfare programs.

The number of states that turned to nonprofits and other third parties for help maintaining welfare funding increased to 13 states in 2011 from 3 states in 2007, according to a Government Accountability Office report released last month (h/t the Examiner). And more states are expected to exercise the option in the future; 17 states said they will probably tap charities for welfare funds, the report found.

The GAO’s findings are just another indication of the toll the down economy takes on state and local governments. Municipal governments are facing such financial woes that they could be forced to cut social services, according to a report last month from the State Budget Crisis Task Force. New York Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch, one of the organizers of the task force, told The Huffington Post last month that he was concerned states’ dire straits threatens “the social order.”

At the same time, the number of Americans turning to government assistance for help has increased. The number of Americans using food stamps had grown more than 40 percent over the past three years as of February 2012, according to the Department of Agriculture.

The GAO study found that food assistance was the most common reason states asked charities for help, but some also tapped nonprofits for aid paying for medical care, employment assistance and other services.

The welfare partnership isn’t the only way in which private groups are helping states. New Jersey officials announced plans to use a grant from a nonprofit to help turn around the state’s struggling schools, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. In Scranton, Pennsylvania, officials are projecting that the city will receive more than $2 million in voluntary contributions from nonprofits, according to the Scranton Times Tribune.