While the economy has rebounded, more and more states are changing the requirements for residents to receive welfare and now Kansas has joined their ranks.
The state’s House of Representatives is currently considering House Bill 2600, which would force those receiving Kansas Food Assistance to work at least 20 hours a week. Additionally, the bill would reduce the amount of time individuals could receive Temporary Cash Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) from 42 months to 30 months, as well as require recipients to self-report any fraudulent activity or risk their benefits, The Salina Post reported.
Republican Rep. John Whitmer told the House Committee on Health and Human Services, of which he is a member, that the bill is “common-sense legislation.” On the other side of the aisle, Democratic committee members Rep. Jim Ward and Rep. John Wilson said they were concerned that the requirements would harm those who didn’t commit fraud maliciously and shames welfare recipients.
“Does it give you any sense of problem that you’re forcing people at the risk of losing their benefits to give evidence that might be against them and that right against self-incrimination?” Ward asked.
Sandra Kimmons, the director of economic and employment services for Department of Children and Families, said that the legislation is supposed to make sure those who need assistance are the individuals who receive it. “It is our ultimate goal to help individuals move from poverty to prosperity through self-reliance,” Kimmons said.
Last week, the state’s Senate has approved Bill 372, also known as the Hope, Opportunity and Prosperity for Everyone (HOPE) Act. Recipients would only be able to accept TANF for 36 months for their entire life, compared to 48 months. The bill also strengthened work requirements by requiring recipients to accept a “suitable employment offer” and forbid them from quitting if they were working at least 30 hours a week.
Republican Sen. Michael O’Donnell said that less people have been using TANF as a result of the work requirements and time limits on the welfare program. “Having the opportunity to get a work requirement in the bill allows people the opportunity to get their GED, to go to college,” he told KCUR. That’s what’s going to make the difference between being in the cycle of dependence and being out of it.”