BOISE, Idaho -

State auditors say the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare misspent $2.5 million in federal welfare funding on salaries instead of using it to help pay for food, housing and other benefits provided to Idaho's poorest residents.

But department officials say the money was used properly to help keep extremely low-income children out of foster care.

The money used for social worker salaries in 2013 was left over from the 2008 Temporary Assistance for Needy Families budget. In the report from the Legislative Service Office, auditors said the federal rules from 2008 required carry-over funds be spent directly on benefits like cash to help meet the basic needs of extremely low-income families.

Department officials counter that the rules changed in 2009, expanding the way the state can use carry-over money.