The state legislature has sent Governor Jay Nixon (D) a proposal to tighten work requirements for receiving federal welfare money and cut by 15-months the lifetime limit for an individual to receive it. The changes apply to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, program, for Missouri households with children younger than 18.
The leader of the state House’s Republican majority says he expects Nixon to veto the bill, but is confident that veto would be overturned. The bill did clear both chambers with large enough majorities to overturn a veto.
The bill, SB 24, would limit a parent to receiving TANF benefits for 45 months in a lifetime rather than the current 60, with exceptions for those who receive benefits as children or in cases of hardship or abuse. Recipients who fail to meet the program’s work activity requirements could lose half their benefits.
The bill’s fiscal note, prepared by legislative researchers, says it would on January 1 immediately remove from the program 3,155 families who have been on it for more than 45 months. That is estimated to include more than 6,000 children.
House Sponsor Diane Franklin (R-Camdenton) said that note assumes those families will still be on the program through the end of the year. She said at the end of this year there will only be 38 families who are on the program now, that will have reached their 60-month limit, and said there are still appeals processes and hardship exemptions.
House Speaker John Diehl, Junior, (R-Town and Country) says those people who would be removed from the program, “have been on welfare long beyond any reasonable definition of temporary.”
Senate President Tom Dempsey (R-St. Charles) said the money saved by the reductions in people on the program would go into getting recipients back to work.
“Some of the complaints you get are, ‘What do I do about childcare,’ or ‘How do I get to work?’ Those questions … we’re providing more funding by shortening that number of weeks for temporary assistance, we’re taking that money and putting into those areas which are going to help people be employed.”
Democrats, though, say the proposal will cost the state $400,000 for computer programs to track welfare recipients’ work participation.
“I just think that is just so bizarre,” said Representative Stacy Newman (D-St. Louis). “How many other programs have we not fully funded, and yet we’ve got to go back and find $400,000 … to be mean to poor people?”
The plan would set aside 2-percent of the money for TANF for alternatives to abortion services and another 2-percent for programs that encourage health marriages and responsible fatherhood.