Politics

No More Cruises, Tattoos, Or Spa Days For Kansas Welfare Recipients

| by Kathryn Schroeder

Welfare recipients in Kansas will no longer be allowed to spend their benefits on cruises, psychics or at liquor stores.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is expected to sign the new law on Monday. Under the bill, Kansas welfare recipients will be unable to receive more than $25 per day in benefits, reports Huffington Post.

The new bill, as part of the Successful Families Program — the Kansas version of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) federal program  will also prohibit welfare recipients from using their benefits at certain types of businesses, including fortune tellers, swimming pools, cruise ships and liquor stores.

Body piercing and tattooing, spa days that include massages and manicures, purchases at jewelry stores, video arcades, lingerie shops or any sexually-oriented business, and bail bonds services are also prohibited.

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”We're trying to make sure those benefits are used the way they were intended," state Rep. Michael O'Donnell (R) said. “This is about prosperity. This is about having a great life."

Kansas state Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau (D) said most recipients use their TANF benefits to pay their rent and utilities.

The bill will limit the amount of benefits a Kansas family can receive to no more than 36 months of assistance in a lifetime, reports RAW STORY. The federal government allows for a 60-month limit.

Under the new law, a three-person family, who receives the maximum benefit, will have to go to an ATM more than a dozen times to get the full benefit. The 85-cent fee associated with any ATM withdraw after the first one will decrease the amount of benefits they actually receive. They are also responsible for paying any fee charged by the ATM.

National welfare advocates are shocked by Kansas’ $25 daily limit, the first of its kind in any state.

"This provision makes it nearly impossible for a recipient who does not have a checking account to pay rent," Liz Schott of the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities wrote in an email. "Moreover, it actually takes money from the pockets of poor families since they will need to pay 85 cents for each additional withdrawal after the first one in a month, and often more with ATM transaction fees."

The original provision was for a $60 daily limit, but state Sen. Caryn Tyson (R) reduced the amount through an amendment.

Enrollment in the Kansas TANF program has decreased significantly under Brownback's administration, from more than 38,900 in 2011 to over 17,600 in 2014, according to the most recent Kansas Department for Children and Families Public Assistance Report.

The decrease may be attributed to the shorter time limit now in effect, Shannon Cotsoradis, director of Kansas Action for Children, said.

Whether the new daily dollar limit will further reduce enrollment, Cotsoradis does not know, but she suggested it probably won’t help families escaping poverty.

"It adds stress to families already experiencing toxic levels of stress," Cotsoradis said.

Kansas state Sen. Laura Kelly (D), a strong opponent to the program’s changes, said claims that those not enrolled any longer are working is not necessarily the “truth.”

“We pat ourselves on the back that our TANF rolls have gone down exponentially and we say it’s because all those people are now working,” Kelly said. We don’t know that and I’m guessing its not the truth.” 

“Now what we want to do is take the same mean-spirited policies that we’ve implemented over the years and we want to codify them,” Kelly said. “I can only assume that the motive behind this is truly malice of intent."

Sources: Huffington Post, RAW STORYKansas Department for Children and Families  / Photo Source: Wikipedia Commons