TOPEKA – This week, Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) clients will begin receiving notice of upcoming changes to their benefits. These notices are being sent to advise clients of changes that will take effect on July 1, as part of the Kansas Hope, Opportunity and Prosperity for Everyone (HOPE) Act that was signed into law on April 16. The Kansas HOPE Act is the most comprehensive welfare reform in the nation, designed to promote self-sufficiency and employment opportunities for low-income Kansans.
Most of the reforms in the Act codify existing DCF policy changes that were already implemented in recent years to encourage employment. Other measures were newly-introduced through the legislative process. One of those measures that passed both chambers was to reduce the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) lifetime limit from 48 months to 36 months (with a 12-month hardship allowed for certain circumstances). In an effort to help individuals transition to this change, DCF will implement the policy in phases:
Pre-implementation: Beginning, today, June 22, DCF will notify clients by mail of the policy changes. Those who are approaching their lifetime limit will be invited to come in and speak with a case manager about their situation to determine if a hardship extension is warranted (up to 12 months).
Phase 1: July 1, the 36-month lifetime limit is implemented. New applications for households that have already reached/surpassed 36 months of TANF will be denied. Those who are currently approved before July 1 (who will hit the 36-month time limit between July 1 and Jan. 1, 2016) will receive a six-month grace period (unless they hit 48 months in that time).
Phase 2: On Jan. 31, 2016, those who reach 36 months will lose TANF eligibility, unless a hardship extension has been granted. Hardship extensions could provide an additional 12 months of eligibility, depending on circumstances.
“We hope this transition period will be used to actively work with our case managers and employment services to obtain employment or training,” DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore said. “We know that the average client on TANF uses 18 months of eligibility, so we are confident that through our services, we can help individuals obtain self-sufficiency before they ever come close to the limit.”
Another change that was passed into law is a $25 daily ATM withdrawal limit. Recently, the Governor signed into law a modification to the original legislation that provides authority to the Secretary to change this limit upon guidance from our federal partners. This language allows the Secretary to “raise or rescind” the ATM limit to ensure “continued appropriation of the TANF block grant through compliance with the provisions of the middle class tax relief and job creation act of 2012 which govern adequate access to cash assistance.”
“We have been in discussions with our federal partners about this provision of the law, but we have not received specific guidance about the daily ATM withdrawal limit at this time,” Secretary Gilmore said.
Our Kansas Benefits Card contractor, FIS, is actively working to implement this law, but the technical adjustments cannot be implemented immediately. Therefore, the $25 ATM withdrawal limit, the restrictions on TANF being used at points of sale outside of the state, and the one ATM transaction per day limit will not be enforced until ATMs and point of sale machines are capable of denying these requests. These changes are estimated to take at least six to 12 months to implement. Additional information will be shared as it becomes available.
Another new measure that DCF is actively working to implement is the optional photo ID on Kansas Benefits Cards. The agency anticipates this measure will take up to 12 months to begin.
“We fully intend to keep clients and the public aware of these changes before they happen,” Secretary Gilmore said. “We are pleased to see that many of our clients are seeing the benefits of our employment programs and transitioning away from dependence. It is our goal that every client realizes his/her full potential through employment, so the cycle of poverty is broken.”
For more information about the Kansas HOPE Act, including a list of frequently asked questions, visit hope.dcf.ks.gov