After Bankrupting the State, Kansas Republicans are going after welfare recipients in unique and unnecessary ways
Now that the Kansas Republican Party is finished bankrupting the state, they have a new agenda. It’s not quite as damaging as the way they destroyed the budget, but it’s a lot higher up on the ridiculous scale, especially if you live on welfare. The Republican controlled Kansas legislature has sent a bill to Gov. Sam Brownback that would install unprecedented and unnecessary hurdles for Kansas welfare recipients. It would also impose hard caps on how long recipients can get benefits.
For starters, the lifetime limit for Kansas welfare recipients would be reduced to 36 months or just three years. By comparison, the lifetime limit at the federal level is five years. The bill also imposes a lifetime welfare ban on anyone with two felony drug convictions.
Those who test positive through the new welfare drug testing program will be immediately suspended. The drug testing program, which was introduced last year, cost $40,000 and only turned up 11 positive tests out of 2,783 applications. But the bill gets worse.
Kansas welfare recipients will be introduced to a $25 a day withdraw limit. Recipients of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program would only be able to withdraw $25 a day with their TANF cards from ATMs, which are similar to debt cards.
A Republican backer of the bill stated that recipients could take out more at a bank counter, but neglected to mention that the cards can’t be used at counters. It should also be pointed out that many poor people don’t even have a bank account. Accounts have to maintain balances and bank fees must be paid. It might explain why 17 million Americans go without one.
Republican Sen. Michael O’Donnell said the intent of the limit was to encourage people to use money more responsibly, but Democratic Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau was quick to argue that some recipients need to withdraw $600 at once to pay their rent on time each month.
The Democratic Senator then accused other members of the Senate of treating welfare recipients like they’re “lowlifes sitting at home, doing nothing” but emphasized that the majority of beneficiaries are the working poor. Rightly so. No other states or the federal government currently limits withdrawals.
On top of the $25 limit, the bill also bans welfare recipients from using their TANF cards at movie theaters, nail salons, pools and spas, liquor stores, jewelry stores, casinos, racing facilities, tattoo and piercing parlors, cruise ships, Etc… All the places welfare beneficiaries just love to hang out at. Cruise ships? Jewelry stores? The myth of the welfare queen is alive and well in Kansas.
Maine’s Republican Gov. Paul LePage once made an attempt to find massive welfare fraud in his state, but he came up relatively empty. As Think Progress pointed out, the report found that less than 1 percent of TANF card withdrawals were made at bars and strip clubs. And there is still no way to know what was bought or if money was simply withdrawn. Looks like Kansas has found another way to punish the 99 percent on behalf of the one.
Brownback has not stated as of yet whether he will sign the bill, but all indications point to it getting done. He has supported this type of legislation in the past. Attacking Kansas welfare recipients is simply the next step in the master Republican plan.
It follows years of tax cuts for the wealthy and major tax cuts for corporations, followed by massive cuts to education and infrastructure. As always, the way to sell it to the public is classic Republican doublespeak; this bill to attack Kansas welfare recipients is called HOPE.