TANF

Courtesy Topeka USD 501

Parents as Teachers is receiving the same amount of funding in Kansas as it did last year, but program administrators are concerned they will not be able to continue helping some families due to new rules.

The Legislature this year approved a switch in the funding source for Parents as Teachers from the Children’s Initiatives Fund, a state pool of money paid by tobacco companies, to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) , a federal fund best known for providing cash assistance for a limited time.

Megan Hart / Heartland Health Monitor

The legislative battle may be over, but the war of words continues about a bill that imposes new restrictions on Kansas welfare recipients.

Gov. Sam Brownback signed Senate Bill 402 on Monday flanked by legislative supporters of the measure.

Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

The Kansas Legislature approved additional restrictions on people who receive government assistance but removed one proposal that would have required women to return to work shortly after giving birth.

The changes, passed late Sunday as part of Senate Bill 402, reduce the lifetime limit for cash assistance through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families from three years to two years. There is a one-year hardship extension.

File photo / Heartland Health Monitor

Kansas has fewer low-income families receiving cash assistance than at any time in the last decade, but less than 10 percent are recorded as leaving the program because they found jobs.

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Proponents of a bill to give businesses tax credits if an employee receives less public assistance after being hired couldn’t estimate the proposal’s financial impact, and the complicated nature of public assistance doesn’t help the task.

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The Kansas Senate on Thursday approved a bill to further tighten welfare eligibility rules.

The measure – Senate Bill 372 – adds new restrictions to rules established last year in a controversial bill that drew national attention.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

A brief theological debate broke out Tuesday in the Kansas Legislature as religious leaders voiced opposition to a bill placing further restrictions on welfare recipients.

The legislation, House Bill 2600, is a sequel to last year’s Hope, Opportunity and Prosperity for Everyone (HOPE) Act. Both bills place stricter limits on who can receive cash assistance and food stamps and for how long. They also place restrictions on things like using benefits to take cruises or continuing to receive benefits after hitting the lottery — scenarios critics say are far-fetched and intended to paint recipients in a negative light.

A bill originally promoted as preventing lottery winners from claiming public assistance would now also cut off households that have received cash assistance for more than two years.

Sen. Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat, confirmed that the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee had amended Senate Bill 372 to lower the lifetime Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) limit from 36 months to 24 months.

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.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

In an announcement that was heavy on optimism but light on details, the Kansas Department for Children and Families introduced a mentoring program for families receiving cash assistance.

The Hope, Opportunity and Prosperity for Everyone (HOPE) program involves mentoring 1,100 people receiving Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) payments, also known as cash assistance. It will expand in July to youths about to age out of the foster care system, DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore said.

Ian D. Keating / Flickr -- Creative Commons

For two years now, the staff at Kansas Action for Children has been trying to unravel a mystery: Why is Medicaid enrollment dropping among the state’s youngest children?

Enrollment of low-income children 1-5 peaked in October 2012 and has been dropping steadily since.

Enrollment of infants younger than 1 in low-income families also dropped during that period. Shannon Cotsoradis, president and CEO of Kansas Action for Children, a Topeka-based nonprofit, said she wants more research to determine whether eligible children are missing out on health coverage.

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration will not follow through on plans to limit welfare recipients to cash withdrawals of $25 per day.

Phyllis Gilmore, secretary of the Kansas Department for Children and Families, said Tuesday that federal officials objected to the limit, saying that it would prevent needy families from having “adequate access to their cash assistance.”

Enforcement of a law designed to limit where low-income Kansas families can spend their public assistance will take longer than expected, state officials said Monday.

The new law, initially scheduled to take effect July 1, will not be enforced for at least six months.

Theresa Freed, a spokesperson for the Kansas Department for Children and Families, attributed the delay to “a computer-system fix that needs to be done.”

Also delayed, Freed said, will be enforcement of the new law’s $25-a-day ATM withdrawal limit for public assistance accounts.

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Federal officials are reviewing new rules Kansas lawmakers approved that restrict poor families’ access to cash assistance.

“This is new territory,” said Liz Schott, a senior fellow with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, D.C. “I don’t know of any other state that’s done what Kansas is doing, and I don’t know that anybody knows what the feds will do.”

The number of low-income Johnson County parents receiving employment preparation help from the state of Kansas has dropped more than 50 percent in the past three years.

Roughly 319 adults enrolled in the federal Temporary Assistance For Needy Families program received employment preparation services each month from the state between July 2013 and June 2014, down from 750 in 2011.

The Kansas Department for Children and Families won’t be dropping 350 families from the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families rolls on July 1.

Instead, these families — all of whom have been on TANF for at least 36 months — will have a six-month “grace period” to figure out how to make ends meet without their TANF benefits. The new cutoff date for these families will be Jan. 1.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon had harsh words for lawmakers who want to enact lifetime limits on the state's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

Speaking at Operation Breakthrough in Kansas City, Missouri, Thursday morning, Nixon called Senate Bill 24 "a misguided measure that punishes poor children in the legislature's zeal to reduce reliance on government assistance."

Lawmakers want to cap TANF benefits at 45 months. Currently, families are eligible for five years of benefits.

Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

Approximately 350 low-income families will be dropped from the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program after a new welfare reform measure takes effect July 1, state officials said Thursday.

The measure, signed into law Thursday by Gov. Sam Brownback, lowers families’ lifetime eligibility for TANF from 48 months to 36.

Families that have reached or exceeded the 36-month threshold when the law takes effect will be cut from the program. They will remain eligible for food stamps but will lose their cash assistance.

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

Gov. Sam Brownback said Wednesday that he intends to sign a controversial welfare bill despite concerns from those who work with poor Kansans about whether the restrictions it imposes are realistic or enforceable.

The governor will sign the bill at a Thursday morning media event featuring former welfare recipients who obtained jobs with help from a state training program.

The Senate voted Wednesday to solidify policies restricting cash assistance to low-income Kansans over the objections of a senator who represents an urban district and other Democrats.

Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, a Democrat from Wichita, said her Senate colleagues displayed ignorance of the realities of poverty in Kansas by passing House Bill 2258

Kansas lawmakers are preparing to vote on a bill that would further tighten the rules for the state’s two main public assistance programs.

The measure, which the House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee endorsed on Wednesday, writes into state law several recent administrative changes made as part of Gov. Sam Brownback’s welfare to work initiative.

A new audit released Tuesday finds that some welfare recipients in Missouri have used their benefits to buy things besides food and other daily necessities, while others may have moved away but continue to get in-state benefits.

A bill that would require drug testing for some welfare and unemployment benefit recipients passed the Kansas Senate Thursday. It would require drug tests for some people enrolled in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, if they are suspected of drug use.

Senator Jeff King, an Independence Republican, says the goal of the bill is to help Kansans who have drug problems.

Democratic Senator Anthony Hensley tried  to add a provision that would also administer drug tests to business owners who receive economic development funds from the state.