With super majorities in both houses of the state legislature, on Tuesday Missouri Republicans overrode a veto by Democratic governor Jay Nixon to effectively reduce the amount of time people can spend on welfare in the Show-Me State. The vote was largely on party lines in both houses.
Features of the new law include:
- The length of time a family can remain on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families is reduced from three years and nine months to fifteen months.
- Ends the two year reprieve in needing to look for work before receiving benefits.
- A reduction in welfare benefits if adults do not meet job search requirements for a length of time, to be restored when the job search criteria is in compliance.
- Face to face visits with state caseworkers will be required for those who do not reach the job search requirement thresholds.
At this time in Missouri, a family of four receives an average of $227 per month when benefiting from this program. There are 73,323 people receiving benefits in a state with a population that hovers around 6 million. The adoption of this bill is expected to “kick 3,155 families off” of welfare in the state when the law goes into effect January 1. Republicans argue that this gives people plenty of time to find a way to replace the income.
Of course, this has Democratic panties in a wad. From StLToday:
Children are “being punished through no fault of their own,” said Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis. Noting that the Legislature has embraced tax breaks for dairy farmers and other businesses, she said: “We’ve been giving subsidies to those that don’t really need it, but then we’re hurting those that need it most.”…
Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, said she has a friend who tutors low-income children. Once, when the children were tired, the tutor asked why.
An eighth-grader said she was up late because she had to go the coin laundry at midnight, when her mother got off work. The other student, a second-grader, said he had slept on the floor. The family lacked enough mattresses for him and his siblings.
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.
While these are issues that are most unfortunate for these children, it is their parents that must take responsibility, not the state. There are provisions in the bill to encourage marriage, block grants are included to discourage abortion and foster fatherhood. There are also funds for victims of domestic abuse and catastrophe on an emergency basis.
The main goal of this law is not simply to save $21 million taxpayer dollars, but to bring Missouri into compliance with federal block grant work requirements.
Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, and the bill’s sponsor, countered that Missouri could lose its federal block grant that funds the program if it doesn’t beef up its work requirements. He characterized Missouri’s work participation rate as 14 percent, well below the federal requirement of 50 percent.
Indeed, Missouri has missed work participation targets in several years, according to data on the website of the federal Office of the Administration for Children and Families. The rate is based on a complex formula that includes credits states receive for reducing the TANF caseload. Figures for the most recent years were not available.
Sater estimated his bill would save $21 million, part of which would be earmarked for services such as subsidized child care and transportation for single parents.
However, that does not change the minds of welfare state advocates, particularly Sen. Nasheed of the Ferguson “unrest” fame: “If they have to go rob, cheat, steal and kill, that’s what many of those individuals may do,” she said. “At the end of the day, we’re going to have to house those individuals in prisons.”
More drama in the state house in Jefferson City is expected after Gov. Nixon vetoed a bill to cut unemployment benefits on Tuesday.