Kansas reforming some welfare rules

Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services Secretary Robert Siedlecki Jr. on Friday announced a host of policy changes for programs that provide assistance to low-income Kansans.

“These changes represent a significant change in policy, in that they treat all households equally, and create fairness across the system,” Siedlecki said in a news release.

Siedlecki said the changes would help eliminate fraud and abuse, and save from $10 million to $15 million, which would expand SRS’ programs to get folks back to work.

“Getting people jobs is our first priority,” Siedlecki said.

The new policies will affect programs that provide tens of thousands of Kansans with food stamps, child care assistance and temporary assistance. They are set to take effect starting Oct. 1 and should be fully in place by Jan. 1.

Many of the changes will affect the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program. TANF is available to families earning less than 32 percent of the federal poverty level. The federal poverty level for a family of four is $22,350, so 32 percent of that is $7,152 per year. The average monthly benefit under TANF is $290 per month; the maximum is $429 per month.

Here are the announced changes:

• All those receiving help under TANF will be required to participate in a job search at the time of application.

• Families may opt to receive a one-time payment of $1,000 for emergency hardships and forgo entry into the TANF program for one year.

• A “soft” 48-month lifetime limit will be imposed on TANF benefits.

• People who knowingly and deliberately commit fraud will lose eligibility permanently.

• The income of all members of a household will be included in calculating food stamp eligibility.

• The income of an unmarried boyfriend or girlfriend as part of a household will be counted to determine eligibility for temporary assistance and child care assistance.

• People receiving temporary assistance must provide proof that their children are enrolled in school.

• Child care assistance recipients will be required to work a minimum of 20 hours per week. Students already are required to work at least 20 hours per week.

In 2010, the TANF program served nearly 37,000 families per month, child care assistance had an average of 20,319 people per month and nearly 260,000 Kansans received food assistance.

By Scott Rothschild

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