When Kansas Governor Sam Brownback (R) returns to his office following the holiday weekend, he is expected to sign a welfare reform bill containing a laundry list of goods and services recipients will not be allowed to spend their benefits on — including going on cruises and paying for psychics.
According to Hutchnews.com, Kansas families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits could receive no more than 36 months of assistance in a lifetime, short of the 60-month limit allowed by the federal government.
TANF benefits, often referred to as “welfare,” provides temporary financial assistance in the form of cash to poor families with the requirement that recipients find work within 24 months.
Under the proposed Kansas bill, recipients will face new limitations on what they may use those cash benefits for, or where they may spend them, as lawmakers attempt to make recipients more responsible while encouraging them to get off welfare rolls.
“We’re trying to make sure those benefits are used the way they were intended,” Sen. Michael O’Donnell (R) said. “This is about prosperity. This is about having a great life.”
According to the Kansas “Successful Families Program“, an eligible family of four in a “high cost/high population” area would be eligible for $497 in cash assistance per month in addition to receiving food stamps.
With that windfall, future recipients would be banned from using those funds to go on cruises, use them to pay for tattooing or body piercing, pay for psychics, or go to spas to get massages or manicures.
Additionally, funds may not be used in casinos, jewelry stores, video arcades, lingerie shops or any sexually oriented retail business, or to pay bail-bondsmen.
According to Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau (D) most recipients use their TANF cash to pay their rent and utilities.
During Brownback’s first term, enrollment in TANF declined by half from 38,900 in 2011 to 17,600 in 2014, something Republicans in the state point to with pride.
Sen. Laura Kelly (D) dismissed the the supposed improvement in former recipient’s lives and destruction of the social safety net, saying, “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. We don’t know that and I’m guessing its 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 said. “I can only assume that the motive behind this is truly malice of intent.”