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Kansas Bill Would Limit Where Welfare Could Be Used And Limit Cash Withdrawals

In an effort to curb welfare spending, Kansas lawmakers submitted a bill that states welfare recipients will be unable to withdraw more than $25 per day in ATM cash. It also prohibits welfare recipients from spending their benefits at liquor stores, swimming pools, fortune tellers and cruise ships.

The state legislature sent the law to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback's desk this week. Rep. Michael O'Donnell (R) said, "We're trying to make sure those benefits are used the way they were intended. This is about prosperity. This is about having a great life."

The Kansas TANF program is locally known as the Successful Families Program--it provides a family of three with as much as $429 each month in cash benefits. It is also one of the 37 states that offers benefits on government-issued debit cards. If the new law is passed, a family of three would have to go to the ATM over 12 times to get the full benefit, of which an $0.85 fee is deducted for each withdrawal after the first one is made. In addition, cruise liner ATMs will no longer be an option.

Based upon the federal welfare reform law of 1996, states have the option to modify their programs as they see fit. Over the past five years, Republicans have made commitments to change their TANF, food stamp and unemployment insurance programs with varying results. For example, Missouri Republicans are contemplating a bill to prevent food stamps from being spent on steak or seafood.

In response to the $25 ATM withdrawal limit, Liz Schott of the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said in an email "This provision makes it nearly impossible for a recipient who does not have a checking account to pay rent.

Moreover, it actually takes money from the pockets of poor families since they will need to pay 85 cents for each additional withdrawal after the first one in a month, and often more with ATM transaction fees."

Originally, the provision allowed $60 per day in benefits, but Sen. Caryn Tyson (R) added an amendment to reduce the amount. Shannon Cotsoradis, director of Kansas Action for Children, said the Brownback administration's TANF changes have reduced the number of Kansans citizens receiving welfare benefits from 38,000 in 2011 to 15,000 last year.

Photo: ABC

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