Kansas Governor Sam Brownback announced today that an estimated 20,000 Kansas residents will soon have to work at least 20 hours per-week in order to continue receiving food stamps.
“We know that employment is the most effective way to escape poverty,” agency head Phyllis Gilmore said in a statement. “As long as federal work requirements are met, no one will lose food assistance. The law only affects those individuals who are capable of working and have no dependent children.”
The decision is the latest move by Governor Brownback to reduce the number of people receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits in the state. In 2011, he enacted a change in state welfare rules that cut 14,000 people off of public assistance. The move saved Kansas $14 million. The state eliminated another program during Brownback’s tenure that paid an estimated $100 a month to around 2,000 people living in extreme poverty. The change saved Kansas $3 million.
Brownback’s decision is not without its critics. Annie McKay of the Kansas Center for Economic Growth says that taking away food from someone does mean they will be able to find a job.
"Once again, we find ourselves cutting off the most vulnerable Kansans from support,” she said. “Taking someone off food stamp assistance isn’t going to suddenly create jobs for them.”
Chad Manspeaker, a Topeka, Kansas councilman echoed McKay’s sentiments, saying that unemployment is a long term problem and “we don’t solve it by starving them.”
Starting on October 1, adults receiving benefits will have three months to either find a job or enroll in a federally approved job training program. Any adult who loses a job after the date will be covered by the 1996 welfare reform law, which allows the unemployed to receive food stamps without working for three months of the year.