The Missouri Senate’s Seniors, Families and Children Committee met Tuesday to discuss reducing welfare in the state for people who have been on it for too long and violent felons.
Currently, Missouri residents can receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) for 60 months. If passed, the legislation would reduce that lifetime maximum to 24 months. In addition, people receiving TANF benefits would have to be employed, actively looking for a job, or enrolled in an employment training program. Sen. David Sater’s bill would also prevent Missouri from receiving a work-requirement waiver in order to accept food stamps during times of high unemployment.
Sater (R-Cassville) believes this bill will help lower unemployment rates, stating: “Our program in Missouri is downright failing. Our work participation rate in this program is only around 17 percent. We are the lowest in the nation. We can certainly do better than that."
Empower Missouri is a social welfare advocacy group hoping to solve the unemployment problem in a different way. Jeanette Mott Oxford, executive director, said: “The question shouldn’t be how to get the smallest number of people. It would be how do we create a better Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to help people overcome their barriers.”
She added: “Our society doesn’t provide enough living wage jobs. We could sanction people and punish them for not getting a job, but the jobs aren’t there. We think there should be a safety net for when jobs are not there for everyone.”
Director of policy at the Missouri Chapter of the ACLU Sarah K. Rossi also opposes the bill, but for a different reason. Another provision in the bill states that violent felons would be banned from receiving TANF benefits or food stamps. Rossi stated: “We know that poverty begets desperation, desperation begets crime and crime begets prison. Cutting them off of resources that keep them from reentering that cycle does not limit recidivism.”
Logan Pike, speaking on behalf of a conservative think tank, has testified in favor of the bill. She stated that reducing the amount of time spent on these welfare programs provides incentive to find work. Pike said: “If TANF recipients aren’t working, they aren’t learning the skills that will get them out of poverty. The 'T' in TANF stands for temporary."