Critics of the potential move fear that families would have less to pay off bills and debts, though they would still be encouraged to get money orders and spend at numerous big-box retailers.
Spas. Fortune tellers. Tattoo parlors. Movies.
These are on the long list of things that welfare recipients in Kansas will be unable to buy using public funds under a recently approved bill in the state.
It affects the taxpayer-funded Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which provides cash payments of up to $497 per month for a family of four.
The program is designed to provide temporary financial assistance to poor families who don’t have enough income to pay their bills. The benefits can be used to pay rent, buy food, put gas in their cars and cover other basic necessities.
But state lawmakers say there should be limitations on where recipients can spend the money and what they can buy.
Michael O’Donnell, the Republican state senator who introduced the bill, told CNNMoney the goal is to “codify in law” existing policies put in place under Governor Sam Brownback.
Brownback, a Republican, is expected to sign the bill, which passed both houses of the Republican-controlled legislature last week.
O’Donnell argues that the aim is to make it harder for people to game the system, as opposed to punishing families that have fallen on hard times.
“I feel that 99% of the people who use TANF benefits, do it within boundaries that are set up,” said O’Donnell. “But there are bad actors.”
Kansas expects to have lost $2.2 million last year to fraud in the program, down from more than $7 million in 2013, according to O’Donnell.
However, critics say the bill assumes that most residents on public assistance are bad actors.
The bill “vilifies and mischaracterizes the typical TANF family,” said Shannon Cotsoradis, CEO of advocacy group Kansas Action for Children.
Cotsoradis said most families that receive the benefit are made up of a single parent raising two children. On average, they receive $400 a month, which she says is not enough to meet their needs. The amount of cash assistance available in Kansas hasn’t been increased since 1996, she added.
In Kansas, here’s a list of what would be off limits:
Body piercing parlors
Tobacco paraphernalia stores
Vapor cigarette stores
Psychic or fortune telling businesses
Bail bond companies
Dog or horse racing facilities
Parimutuel facilities (off-track betting)
Cigarettes and tobacco products
Tickets for professional or collegiate sporting events
Tickets for other entertainment events intended for the general public
Any business or retail establishment where minors under age 18 are not permitted.
READ MORE: CNNMoney.com
Article Courtesy of CNN Money
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