Kansas Bill Would Prevent Lottery Winners From Collecting Assistance

Jan 21, 2016

Kansas Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, a Republican from Shawnee, says a bill to prevent lottery winners from collecting assistance is 'very important to protect the taxpayers.'
Credit Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

A proposed bill would cross-check Kansans receiving cash assistance, food stamps or subsidized child care with a list of lottery winners who received more than $10,000, Republican lawmakers said Thursday.

Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, a Republican from Shawnee who spoke at a Statehouse news conference about the bill, said she wasn’t aware of any cases in Kansas where a lottery winner continued to collect assistance, but similar incidents in other states generated widespread anger.

“This is very important to protect the taxpayers,” she said.

The bill, which has yet to be introduced in the Legislature, also would require state agencies to verify the identities of any adults in a household that receives one or more of those three forms of assistance, said Rep. Dan Hawkins, a Republican from Wichita.

It also would require people who receive cash assistance or subsidized child care to participate in fraud investigations and monitor “excessive” lost benefit cards, which could be a sign the recipient is giving the cards to someone else, he said.

Hawkins said the bill also contains “cleanup” language related to work requirements and lifetime cash assistance limits in the Hope, Opportunity and Prosperity for Everyone (HOPE) Act, which the Legislature approved last year. He said he couldn’t specify the language at the moment.

The act limited cash assistance to 36 months, down from 48 months, and required food stamp recipients to work at least 20 hours per week or participate in job training. It also prohibited cash recipients from using their benefit cards at movie theaters, swimming pools, jewelry stores and tattoo parlors, among other places.

Republican lawmakers pointed to the HOPE Act as a success, saying the number of non-disabled adults receiving some form of assistance had fallen by 70 percent, and that adults receiving food stamps who didn’t have a disability were three times more likely to be working than before.

As of October, 459 Kansans receiving cash assistance had reported they were newly employed, with average wages of $9.67 per hour and an average of 30.5 hours of work per week. If a person worked 52 weeks per year at those averages, it would come to an annual income of $15,336, above the federal poverty line for a single person but below the line for a family of two.

Rep. Willie Dove, a Republican from Bonner Springs, said he had used welfare while living in New Jersey. Helping people to develop work skills would be the “most compassionate” way to assist them, he said.

“The future is dark when you’re given everything on a platter with no responsibility,” Dove said.

Megan Hart is a reporter for KHI News Service in Topeka, a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor team. You can reach her on Twitter @meganhartMC