The Impact Of Kansas' Food Stamp Policy


Republican Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas has touted a new study as proof that his reinstatement of work requirements for food stamp recipients has been a success. Critics call the report misleading.

On April 20, Brownback spoke at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), stating that his decision to not renew a federal waiver for food stamp requirements in 2013 had resulted in impoverished Kansas residents returning to the workforce, ThinkProgress reports.

Federal law places work requirements on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) beneficiaries.  Able-bodied adults without dependents are required to work 20 hours a week or participate in job training programs for an equivalent amount of time to receive those benefits. If they fail to do so within three months, they are kicked out of the program.

Following the 2008 economic recession, all states were granted federal waivers to give relief to food stamp recipients during a lagging job market. Brownback was among the first governors to choose not to renew the waiver.

In January 2014, an estimated 15,000 people were dropped from the Kansas SNAP rolls.

“We got a push of people saying, ‘Well I don’t wanna do this, I don’t like doing this,’ [and] some people saying, ‘Look I’m not gonna participate in the program then if that’s the case,’” Brownback said.

The governor cited a report from the Foundation for Government Accountability, which tracked the income of the 41,000 Kansans residents who lost their SNAP benefits in 2014. The study determined that those who had lost their food stamps, on average, saw an income increase of 127 percent, Salina Post reports.

Brownback has previously touted the report, requesting that U.S. House Speaker, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, push the Kansas food stamp policies to combat poverty nationwide.

Analyst Rachel Sheffield of The Daily Signal praised the Kansas program, citing the same report.

Of the individuals who left the food stamp ranks, 40 percent found employment within three months, and about 60 percent found employment within a year,” Sheffield wrote.

“They saw an average income increase of 127 percent,” Sheffield continued. “Half of those who left the rolls and are working have earnings above the poverty level. Even many of those who stayed on food stamps saw their income[s] increase significantly.”

Critics of the study point out that the 127 percent average increase for Kansas who lost SNAP benefits translated into an average annual income of $5,562, meaning that 71 percent of them were living in severe poverty. The federal poverty line for an able-bodied adult without dependents is $11,770 annually.

“A true measure of success would be the number of Kansans leaving public assistance programs because they earn too much to qualify,” wrote CEO Shannon Cotsoradis of Kansas Action for Children in a written statement.  

“IInstead, the data presented today shows that Kansas adults are losing food assistance because they aren’t able to find enough work and earn too little,” Cotsoradis concluded.

Sources: The Daily Signal, Salina PostThinkProgress / Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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