Originally published April 13, 2015

There’s a reason people think the government never gets anything done. Spoiler alert: It’s because of stupid crap like House Bill #2258.

In a nutshell, HB2258 restricts Kansas families receiving government assistance from using those funds to visit swimming pools, see movies, go gambling or get tattoos on the state’s dime. That makes sense, right? I mean, people should be using their assistance to pay for necessities, not entertainment. Good for you, Republicans! Right?

Not really, no.

On paper, this kind of bill makes Republicans get all tingly in all the right places, but in reality it serves two purposes:

1.) To make Republicans feel all self righteous that they’re showing “all those freeloaders” what for.

2.) To further shame people who are receiving “welfare” – in this case, TANF. And in case you’d like a little insight into that shame, read this.

Here’s why: Because of the way TANF works in Kansas, the only way to restrict the way funds are used is by putting regulations on when the EBT card will be accepted. I am not aware of any movie theater, casino, tattoo parlor, or public pool that even has an EBT card reader…but I’m not educated well enough on whether ALL card readers will allow you to use an EBT card like any old debit card. So, let’s say you CAN do that now, and the bill restricts that. Ok. Great. Except if someone wanted to do that ANYWAY, all they’d have to do is pull the money off of the TANF side of their card. Then they have cash and – unless there’s some way I don’t know about to tell those those bills were acquired via and EBT card withdrawal – they can use it however they damn well please.

So this bill doesn’t DO anything. At all.

Well, no, that’s not technically true. This bill wasted the time and energy of Kansas legislators who could have been working on ACTUALLY SOLVING OTHER PROBLEMS. And that time comes out of our paychecks, ladies and gentlemen. Those are our tax dollars hard at work. Well…some of our tax dollars, we all know who ISN’T footing the bill for those hours, amirite?

For those of you who are unaware of how TANF works – because, to be clear, we ARE talking about TANF here, and not SNAP (food stamps) – here we go:

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is commonly referred to as “cash assistance” by those who receive it and the case workers for those families. Apparently, it was recently renamed the “Successful Families Program” but they kept the same acronym, because logic. The key word here is “families.” This is not a program that individuals or couples who have no children are able to apply for.

You can read all the guidelines for yourself (links at the bottom), but I’ll break it down for you in case you don’t want to wade through the bureaucratic version.

In order to qualify, the person or couple applying must have at least one child under 18 in the home, or be expecting a baby. Yes, the pregnancy has to be verified. (If the woman miscarries and doesn’t inform her case worker, she will owe that money back to the state. Yes.) So, right off the bat, we’re talking about FAMILIES.

If you are a single parent caring for two children, your income has to be less than $518 a month to qualify for TANF. So, if you’re making $519 a month (yes, the restrictions are THAT concrete) – and they average your last 3 months of earnings to give you the best chance of qualifying – you will not qualify. I hope you can pay rent, buy non-food necessities, pay utilities, pay for childcare, and still have gas money to get to and from that job of yours with $519. That’s rough, and I honestly applaud those who can do it – I couldn’t. To be clear, that’s WAY below the poverty line in Kansas.

Now, if you ARE a single parent caring for two children, the maximum amount you will get in TANF is $429 a month. That’s if you have no job and no other income. So, you’re WORSE OFF not having a job. You’ll get roughly the same amount in SNAP either way because TANF counts as income.

There’s another misconception that you can just get on welfare and never work again. That’s…like…super inaccurate. First, you are only eligible for 48 months of TANF in your ENTIRE LIFE, and Kansas does count any months you received it in other states – so if you were in, say, Hawaii for 6 years and got TANF the whole time (I don’t know Hawaii’s rules), then you come to Kansas, you flat out cannot get TANF here, at all, ever. There are no exceptions to the rule.

FINALLY, in order to continue to receive TANF, you have to participate in Work Programs. I consider myself an authority on this subject, because I actually ran Work Programs when I worked at DCF. A single parent has to do 20 hours per week of Work Programs activities – either going to school, actually working, community service, or job search (there are others but those are the most common). You don’t get to sit at home taking care of those kids, you have to go either try to find a job or train so you can get a job (but you can only ever train for 12 months, so no 4 year degrees on the State’s dime, we’re talking vocational education). You have to prove that you were actually doing those activities for your required 20 hours, and your WP case manager has to check up on you to make sure you’re not lying.

Two parent households have to do 35 hours between them. HAVE TO.<

OH, and you HAVE to do either the 20 or 35 hours of job search before your TANF application is even accepted.

Here’s what happens if you don’t meet your WP requirements (you don’t meet your hours, you stop going to class, you get fired, you QUIT your job): your WP worker puts you on a penalty. That means your TANF and SNAP go away. You have to cure your penalty (usually by looking for a job). When you cure your penalty, you get your SNAP back – at a prorated rate. But your TANF? You don’t get that back until the penalty ends.

1st penalty – 3 months

2nd penalty – 6 months

3rd penalty – 12 months

4th penalty – Never eligible again. Never.

In almost EVERY case where I put someone on a penalty, they cured the penalty by getting a job. Their job made them ineligible for TANF.

These restrictions have all but eradicated “welfare fraud” in Kansas (at least as far as TANF is concerned), but Brownback still feels like he needs to put the hammer down on people who are doing everything they can to stay afloat and TELL THEM they aren’t worthy of having a little fun – but, again, not actually doing anything.

So, before you go spouting off about the “freeloaders” in Kansas mooching off of your tax money, just consider how you would survive if you lost your job, had no savings, weren’t educated, didn’t have family to turn to, and had kids to take care of. Then look at the number of hoops you’d have to jump through just to get a little bit of help for a very limited amount of time.

Then shut up.



TANF Eligibility Amounts By State

Kansas Department for Children and Families

The Washington Post

The day I bought steak with my food stamps

img sources:


Stick Figure Family created at http://www.widdlytinks.com/myfamily/stick/


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