The state House has voted to overturn Governor Jay Nixon’s (D) veto of a bill that would reduce the number of months a person can spend on the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.
Republicans said the bill would encourage people to get off the program by creating work activity requirements for assistance recipients. Representative Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City) says that will help break what proponents called a cycle of using government assistance.
“A child in a house with parents who do not work is destined to be in that same situation because look at the examples they have,” said Barnes.
House Democrats including Genise Montecillo (D-St. Louis) argued the bill would just hurt families.
“This is once again this body and this legislature passing on some of its members’ moralistic judgment of families who struggle to take care of their loved ones and their family members,” said Montecillo.
Representative Judy Morgan (D-Kansas City) said more than 6,400 children will be removed from the program.
“With this 45-month cap, 10,000 individuals, of which 3,100 of them are the families and 6,400 kids are going to be kicked off TANF immediately January 1, 2016,” said Morgan.
Representative Scott Fitzpatrick (R-Shell Knob) said those families have eight months before the bill would kick in, and in that time they could look for ways to replace that assistance.
“That is plenty of time,” said Fitzpatrick. “We’re not being cruel here.”
Both chambers voted generally along party lines, with the Republican supermajority supporting the override.
The bill would also require face-to-face visits by state case workers with recipients who fail to meet work requirements. Those who keep failing to meet requirements after six weeks would see benefits cuts in half for 10 weeks while they can either return to compliance, or be kicked off the program at the end of that time.
Some Democrats said they liked the work requirements of the bill and the face-to-face meeting provision, but argued there was no reason for a shortening of the time limit for receiving benefits.