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New Kansas Bill Aims to Restrict How Government Assistance is Spent

New Kansas Bill Aims to Restrict How Government Assistance is Spent

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach discusses an lawsuit filed by the state and Arizona on Wednesday, August 21, 2013, against a federal elections commission in Topeka, Kan. The lawsuit seeks to force changes in federal voter registration forms to comply with state laws requiring proof of citizenship. (AP Photo/John Milburn)

There’s nothing fun about being on welfare, and a new Kansas bill aims to keep it that way.

If House Bill 2258 is signed into law by Gov. Sam Brownback (R) this week, Kansas families receiving government assistance will no longer be able to use those funds to visit swimming pools, see movies, go gambling or get tattoos on the state’s dime.

Those are just a few of the restrictions contained within the measure that promises to tighten regulations on how poor families spend their government aid.

State Sen. Michael O’Donnell, a Wichita Republican who has advocated for the bill, said the legislation is designed to pressure those receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to spend “more responsibly.”

[Missouri Republicans are trying to ban food stamp recipients from buying steak and seafood]

“We’re trying to make sure those benefits are used the way they were intended,” O’Donnell, vice chair of the state senate’s standing committee on public health and welfare, told the Topeka Capital-Journal. “This is about prosperity. This is about having a great life.”

That, according to the legislation, means limiting spending on body piercings, massages, spas, tobacco, nail salons, lingerie, arcades, cruise ships or visits to psychics. The bill — which limits TANF recipients from withdrawing more than $25 per day from ATMs — also forbids recipients from spending money at a:

…theme park, dog or horse racing facility, parimutuel facility, or sexually oriented business or any retail establishment which provides adult-oriented entertainment in which performers disrobe or perform in an unclothed state for entertainment, or in any business or retail establishment where minors under age 18 are not permitted.

“I just think we are simply saying to people, ‘If you are asking for assistance in this state, you’re sort of less than other people and we’re going to tell you how and where to spend your money,’” Rep. Carolyn Bridges, a Wichita Democrat, said during the House’s debate, according to the Associated Press.

The measure was passed by the Kansas House and Senate last week and is widely supported by Republicans, who control both legislative chambers, according to the AP.

Brownback is expected to sign the bill, according to reports, though spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said the governor plans to review the measure carefully. If the bill is signed, the AP noted, the law will take effect July 1.

“The governor believes strongly that employment is the most effective path out of poverty and he is supportive of work requirements that help people become self-sufficient,” she said in a statement.

Under the Successful Families Program, an eligible family of four can receive as much as $497 per month in certain high-cost counties, but no more than $454 in lower-cost locales. The bill would cap the number of months a family could receive those benefits over a lifetime at 36 months.

The new measure comes at a time when TANF enrollment is on the decline.

During Brownback’s first term in office, TANF recipients dropped from 38,900 in 2011 to 17,600 in 2014, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal. About 300,000 Kansans received food stamps, up from 5,000 since Brownback became governor, the newspaper noted.

Republicans have hailed the declining TANF numbers as evidence that anti-poverty strategies are working, the Web site reports, but Democrats have argued the numbers are evidence of more families slipping between the cracks.

“We pat ourselves on the back that our TANF rolls have gone down exponentially and we say it’s because all those people are now working,” Sen. Laura Kelly (D) told the Capital-Journal. “We don’t know that and I’m guessing it’s not the truth.”

“Now what we want to do is take the same mean-spirited policies that we’ve implemented over the years and we want to codify them,” she added. “I can only assume that the motive behind this is truly malice of intent.”

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This entry was posted on April 7, 2015 by in Headlines, Kansas, Politics, U.S. and tagged , , , , , , .

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