Cash-strapped Kansas has come up with a way to save money that’s sure to ruffle some feathers.
Gov. Sam Brownback and the state legislature have decided one way to control spending is to limit ATM cash withdrawals by welfare to $25 per day.
The new law will also outlaw the use of government funds on nail salons, tattoos, video arcades, movie theaters and swimming pools, according to Bloomberg News.
Kansas is among several Republican-controlled states that have recently cut or limited public-assistance funds. In Arizona, which faces a $1 billion budget shortfall, lawmakers voted on May 18 to limit welfare to a year, the shortest window in the nation.
On May 5, Missouri’s Republican legislature overrode Democratic Governor Jay Nixon’s veto to enact a bill that cut thousands of low-income families from aid rolls by reducing how long people can claim cash from five years to fewer than four.
Michigan’s GOP-controlled legislature passed a bill on June 2 that strips cash assistance from families with chronically truant children.
“During the recession there were lots of blue states, for fiscally driven reasons, that were cutting welfare,” says Liz Schott, a senior fellow at the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington think tank. “This year’s cuts feel more ideologically driven.”
A September 2014 survey by the Pew Research Center found that 73 percent of Republicans feel the government can’t afford to do much more to help the needy, compared with 32 percent of Democrats.
“If you look at cycles in history, you’ll see that there is compassion, then compassion fatigue, and then blame,” says Patricia Baker, a senior policy analyst at the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, a Boston nonprofit that researches poverty. “This happens because there’s impatience with the solution.”
The number of families receiving cash through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the federal-state aid program that grew out of the 1996 federal welfare reform law, peaked in 1994 at 5.1 million families, according to the Congressional Research Service. It’s since plummeted to 1.5 million at the end of 2014. In Kansas 6,478 families were on welfare at the end of last year, down from 7,553 in 2013. Monthly payments for a family of three range from $386 to $429, depending on a county’s population and cost of living.
Critics of the measure say the move will have no effect on fixing the budget crisis and is a political move to pander to the political base.
Brownback says that isn’t the case.
“The primary focus is to get people back to work, because that’s where the real benefit is—getting people off public assistance and back into the marketplace with the dignity and far more income there than the pittance that government gives them,” he said upon signing the law in April.
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