Phyllis Gilmore, Secretary of the Kansas Department for Children and Families
Kansas’ new approach to welfare programs, by encouraging work, has broken the cycle of poverty for thousands of Kansans. Unfortunately, these successful efforts to provide hope and opportunity to those struggling to make ends meet are under attack in the Kansas Legislature. Some critics prefer to keep our neighbors and friends trapped in poverty and dependent on the government. We, on the other hand, will not support the poverty-industrial complex that puts trifling sums of government money in the hands of people who have fallen on hard times. We believe Kansans are better than that.
The Kansas HOPE (Hope, Opportunity and Prosperity for Everyone) Act incentivizes work and prevents fraud. Since 2012, 13,000 fewer Kansas kids are living in poverty. From 2007 to 2016, there has been a 227 percent increase in the work participation rate for Kansans on welfare. Meanwhile, more than 40,000 new employments among welfare recipients were reported from January 2011 through 2016. Within a year of work requirements being implemented, the wages of those receiving food assistance more than doubled, increasing by 127 percent on average. Kansans who previously had to rely on government assistance are now finding a way out of poverty altogether.
The same week the Legislature voted to raise income taxes for hard-working Kansas families, they are also debating how much to weaken work requirements for welfare recipients. The proposed SOAR Act expects taxpayers to foot the bill for able-bodied adults without dependent children, between 18 and 49, to receive free food assistance with no obligation to work, attend school or receive work training. The proposal eliminates accountability measures. This is an approach that pushes lifetime reliance on government aid instead of promoting upward economic mobility, and it’s unacceptable.
The Kansas Department for Children and Families is focused on addressing the underlying causes of poverty. DCF offers a wide range of support services, job training, funds for transportation and work equipment, to support our clients on a path to self-reliance and greater economic opportunity.
This is the answer to poverty. Keeping low-income families locked in a life of poverty and government dependence is not an option. We must keep HOPE alive and encourage lawmakers to support prosperity over poverty.