Governor Sam Brownback has signed a bill tightening welfare rules in Kansas. The so-called HOPE Act reduces the total amount of time families may receive benefits in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program from 36 months to 24 months. The state can add another 12 months to the limit for certain hardships. Brownback says the goal is getting people off assistance programs and back into jobs.
“This is encouraging people to get back in the workforce on a sooner basis so the deterioration of those work skills doesn’t continue to happen,” says Brownback.
Shannon Cotsoradis, with the group Kansas Action for Children, says families often rely on these benefits when they’re hit with a challenge like a job loss or medical crises. She says a shorter limit on benefits can mean doing without the basics.
“We’re talking about things like shelter, food, clothing, shoes for their children’s feet, diapers. This isn’t about the more robust needs of children, it’s about the most basic needs of children,” says Cotsoradis.
The Kansas Department for Children and Families says it estimates more than 400 households will hit the 24-month limit on benefits in the next year.
The new law, which takes effect in July, continues the Kansas Legislature's move toward tightening rules on welfare eligibility and benefits. Lawmakers also made welfare changes last year.
The bill also includes a so-called step therapy provision that requires Medicaid recipients to try cheaper, proven drugs before trying more expensive options.