A bill that would cut in half the amount of time Missourians could be on a certain welfare program has cleared the state House.
The House proposes reducing from five years to two-and-a-half years the amount of time a family could utilize the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, program. The Senate originally proposed a reduction to four years.
House Democrat leader Jake Hummel (St. Louis) attempted to restore the limit in the bill to five years.
“Let’s actually have a very clear vote on whether or not we’re going to kick children off of benefits that feed and clothe them,” said Hummel.
His amendment failed.
Representative David Wood (R-Versailles) said the bill would help to move Missourians off of welfare.
“I’ve always had the philosophy that I would much rather give one of my constituents a job than give them a check, and I believe this moves in that direction,” said Wood. “We want our constituents to be employed and be productive and not necessarily just receive a check for doing nothing.”
Representative Genise Montecillo (D-St. Louis) said the bill’s sponsors are starting from an incorrect assumption.
“We assume that people who are on TANF or are receiving TANF benefits, that they don’t want a job. That they’re lazy. That we just need to teach them how to not be lazy, and we need to teach them how to be good parents,” said Montecillo. “I think that is a very unfair beginning.”
Democrats said the bill would kick many Missouri children off the program, but Representative John McCaherty (R-High Ridge) said their numbers are inflated.
“I have heard so many mis-quotes and mis-facts,” said McCaherty. “‘When we vote this bill out and the governor signs it, oh my gosh, everybody that’s been on it, 12,000 kids, are going to lose their TANF benefits.’ No they’re not.”
McCaherty and other Republicans argue exemptions will reduce the number of people that would come off of benefits under the bill.
The bill would require TANF recipients to be employed or actively seeking employment to be eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), would use 2-percent of the federal money for TANF on alternatives for abortion programs, and would use another 2-percent on programs to promote healthy marriages and responsible fatherhood.
The bill goes back to the Senate, who could accept the shorter timeframe or seek to negotiate a compromise between the two chambers.