Welfare Reform and More!

Higlights from the Capitol! 

The House adjourned a day earlier than the scheduled first adjournment deadline.

Veto Session will convene on April 29th, after newly updated Consensus Revenue Estimates (April 20th) and a day before April revenue collection figures are released.

However, the House and Senate budget chairs have already begun conferencing to negotiate differences between the House and Senate budget blueprints.

The negotiating teams have already agreed to include $3 million for an efficiency study on state government that will be designed to find cost-savings in state government operations and identify duplications of efforts. The study will be reported directly to the legislature so that lawmakers can develop their own recommendations in the budget process, not just work off of agency recommendations.

They’ve also agreed to hold funding for Regents institutions steady, but added a provision that will prohibit tuition increases.

There will be more negotiating and conferencing during Veto Session. The new revenue estimates and revenue collections will also give a more concrete budget number to fill with additional revenue.

The block grant education bill was published in the Kansas Register April 2, making it official state law and solidifying over half the state’s budget. It provides certainty and stability to schools when most every other part of state government is being reduced.

Welfare Reform

The House on Thursday concurred to a bill that will codify into state law existing policies already in practice by the Department for Children and Families. It also repeals obsolete statutes and adds some new policy.

The underlying purpose behind the policies is to empower and equip individuals to find self-sufficiency and use their abilities to the extent that they are capable.

During committee hearings, there were many stories of people who’ve benefitted from the work components and job training allowed under the bill.

The bill mainly applies to two programs administered by the Department for Children and Families, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps. Both are federal programs that are administered by the states.

Since 2011, TANF recipients in Kansas have been required to complete a work assessment and cooperate with work programs that will help them find employment.

The job training component has led to a reduction in the number of people who require cash assistance. From December 2013 to December 2014, there were 6,029 TANF recipients who found new employment because of the work program administered by DCF.

The bill also codifies increased options for people who find themselves in tough situations, by allowing the option of a diversion payment for a temporary hardship, instead of going on monthly assistance as the only option.

The bill also prohibits the DCF Secretary from giving more than three months of food assistance to able-bodied adults with no dependents for more than three months unless the adult is working, looking for work, or participating in federally approved job training.

Further, it establishes an exemption from the TANF work participation requirements for parents with a child less than three months of age. The three-month limitation shall not apply if the adult is personally providing care for a child born significantly premature, with serious medical conditions/ disabilities.

The bill imposes a 36-month TANF lifetime limit with an additional 12 months of eligibility if hardship criteria are met. Currently, most TANF recipients use the benefit for an average of 18 months.

The bill prohibits TANF cash assistance from being used in liquor stores, casinos, gaming establishments, and retail establishments providing adult entertainment.

Persons with disabilities will be required to participate in work activities to an extent consistent with their disabilities.

The bill also prohibits the DCF secretary from expanding SNAP eligibility, using state or federal funds to promote SNAP participation, and enforces time limitations on usage from able-bodied adults with no children.

Additionally, people receiving food assistance under SNAP have been offered the option to participate in work training and employment services under a pilot program.

The department recently received a $13.5 million grant from the US Department of Agriculture to continue the work program.

Parents who are attending school will only have to participate in 15 hours of work in order to be eligible for food assistance.

The bill ensures that children of parents who have been convicted of fraud will still receive benefits through the use of a protective payee.

ABLE Act

The legislature sent a bill to the governor that will allow Kansans with disabilities to set up tax-free savings account that allows up to $14,000 in deposits per year, with an up to a $100,000 balance without fear of reduced coverage from Medicaid or Social Security.

This will empower families with disabled children to save for any type of need that may arise because of that disability, such as accessible housing modifications, accessible transportation, and education.

The ABLE Act originated at the federal level with legislation that authorized state to set up the programs locally.

The program empowers and incentivizes peoples with disabilities to gain independence and enhance quality of life.