The Missouri Senate voted Monday to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a bill that severely restricts eligibility for welfare in the state, potentially barring thousands of low-income families from government assistance.
If the State House of Representatives also votes in favor of this bill, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program will be cut from five years to three years and nine months, and will impose stricter work requirements.
The Republican-dominated House is expected to override the governor’s veto, thus passing the bill.
Nixon and other opponents maintain that if this measure is implemented, it would punish children more than adults. “I don’t sign bills that hurt kids, period,” the Democratic governor said, calling the bill “misguided."
Proponents say that it will encourage those who rely on welfare to find work. Sponsoring Sen. David Sater believes that the current welfare system provides far too much, to the point that it actually discourages families from finding jobs.
“Right now, this program is actually causing more of a dependency on government,” Sater said. “I want to stop that. I want to see families on their own, self-sufficient.”
Democratic Sen. Jamilah Nasheed cautions that offering less support to families could encourage them to find it through crime.
“If they have to go rob, shoot, steal, kill, that’s what many of those individuals may do. You need to think about the unintended consequences,” Nasheed told the Senate, reminding them that Missouri’s cash assistance is already low to start with.
Currently, $292 is the most that the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program provides per month, which many argue is not nearly enough to provide for a family.
This year, several states have proposed bills that impose strict welfare limits. One month ago, Kansas passed a bill barring those on welfare from withdrawing more than $25 a day on their cash assistance cards. The bill also placed more stringent restrictions on the types of purchases they could make.
If Missouri's welfare restrictions are enacted, an estimated 3,155 families will be kicked off of welfare starting Jan. 1, 2016, including about 6,400 children, according to the Missouri Department of Social Services.
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