Kansas Governor Strikes Again: Pulls Funding For Feeding Low Income Children

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If you take a group of poor people and push them off of a cliff, that would free them from the grip of poverty and hunger. Apparently, the Wizard of Oz, better known as Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, has a similar plan to fix the problem of poverty in Kansas.

Ever since his election, Brownback has been conducting a dismal experiment that cuts taxes on the wealthy and businesses, which has dug Kansas into such a deep fiscal hole that it may never climb out. The state congress was so disgusted with him that they went home without a balanced budget. Brownback is left trying to patch things up.

Brownback decided it would be a grand idea to limit welfare benefits in order to free people on the edge of desperation from “the grip of poverty.” With one in five Kansas children food insecure, this plan is insane. “Food insecure” means that there is no guarantee a child will have their next meal.

The 2015 HOPE Act is a law that tries to move families from welfare into the workforce. Of course, it would be nice if the governor had created enough jobs for people to take. The law limits lifetime cash assistance from 24 to 36 months. If it chooses to do so, the state can give people a 12-month extension.

According to nonprofit Kansas Action For Children [KAC], Kansas has reduced the number of children in families receiving cash assistance by 60 percent since 2007. However, childhood poverty has increased by 20 percent.

Senior fellow at the liberal research group Center On Budget And Policy Priorities Liz Schott said:

‘Application requirements have led to thousands of needy families not being able to get onto aid at all, or get access to work programs that might be offered. And sanctions have resulted in thousands of families losing benefits, often those with the greatest barriers to employment and who may not have been able to do what the work requirement assigned to them.’

Critics of the plan are very concerned that families would have no safety net during financially lean times. Although the number of Kansas children in its cash assistance program has dropped from over 25,000 in 2007 to 10,000 in 2015, child homelessness has increased in the state since 2007

KAC president and CEO Shannon Cotsoradis said:

‘For six years, Governor Brownback has declared a commitment to reducing childhood poverty, which makes it difficult to reconcile this policy decision.’

Brownback spoke about his welfare reform measures at a news conference Monday:

‘It’s helped people get out of poverty, it’s helped people have more income and in some cases it’s helped people get back their dignity to get back into the labor force.’

The underlying problem with this welfare plan is that it assumes people are just lazy or want a free ride at the expense of other hardworking Kansans. Brownback’s law says able-bodied people who receive assistance have to keep their jobs, as long as they work 30 hours at that job, or join an employment or training program. The consequence of not doing this means three months without assistance. A second violation means six months without assistance. A third and subsequent violations mean a year of ineligibility.

People with newborn babies don’t have to go back to work for three months to keep their cash benefits unless one adult in the family has reached lifetime limit.

The governor referred to a February report from the conservative Foundation For Government Accountability. It indicated that able-bodied Kansans’ income increased 127 percent after leaving the food assistance program.

Brownback estimates he can pull about 450 families off of cash assistance, or 9 percent of the 4900 families, after they get to the two-year limit. He said:

‘It’s necessary to decrease lifetime limit to encourage people to get back into the game.’

Critics of Brownback’s throw-them-off-of-the-cliff welfare plan, though, say it only decreases the number of people receiving benefits and does nothing to decrease poverty.

Featured Image: Alon Banks via Flickr, Creative Commons License.

H/T: Daily Reporter and Kansas City Star.