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Newsroom SRS announces changes to department policies regarding TANF, child care assistance and SNAP programs

TOPEKA -- Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services Secretary Rob Siedlecki today announced reforms in the way the Department administers the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Child Care Assistance and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) programs.


“As a result of a thorough review of all benefit programs administered by SRS, the department is implementing a series of policy reforms that will take effect October 1, 2011. These reforms will aid in the Department’s ability to eliminate fraud and abuse, while at the same time helping recipients of TANF, SNAP and Child Care Assistance move into full-time employment and achieve self-sufficiency,” Secretary Siedlecki said.


The reforms include:


·         All TANF applicants will be required to participate in a directed job search at the time of application for benefits. This employment-focused change will help more individuals find employment before they ever enter the TANF program. 


·         Individuals who knowingly and deliberately commit fraud will lose eligibility permanently.


·         Families may now opt to receive a one-time diversion payment of $1,000 to solve emergency hardship situations and forego entry into TANF program. This will allow families the ability to take a one-time payment of $1,000 in exchange for not entering the program for a 12-month period.


·         Kansas Vision Card holders will no longer be allowed to purchase alcohol, tobacco and lottery tickets with the cash portion of their card. 


·         The income of all members of a household will be included in calculating SNAP (Food Stamps) eligibility. Currently, the income of members of a household who cannot or will not  provide proof of legal U.S. residency is counted only in part (proration), while that of American citizen households is counted in full. This has resulted in households with non-citizen members receiving benefits at higher levels than households comprised entirely of American citizens. The new policy will result in citizen and non-citizen households income levels being treated equally, and both types of households in the same circumstances will receive equal benefits,  ending the unequal and discriminatory policy currently in place.


·         To provide equal treatment to all households, TANF and Child Care Assistance will now include the income of an unmarried boyfriend/girlfriend as part of a household in determination of eligibility.


·         TANF recipients will be required to provide proof of school enrollment for all the children in the family in order to qualify for cash assistance.


·         Non-cooperation with TANF work programs and Child Support Enforcement will result in time-specific forfeiture of benefits. Timing of forfeiture will be tiered and dependent upon the number of offenses: the first instance of non-cooperation will result in three months forfeiture, 2nd non-cooperation, six months, 3rd non-cooperation, one year, and a 4th non-cooperation will result in 10 years forfeiture. More than half of the states impose a time-specific forfeiture of benefits for non-compliance. Case assessments will be performed to ensure that no individuals with incapacities will receive the penalty.


·         To create a uniform policy that promotes work and helps move individuals towards full-time employment, Child Care Assistance recipients will be required to be employed a minimum of 20 hours per week. Students are currently required to work a minimum of 20 hours per week, and this policy adjustment will bring consistency to the program. Studies show that the most effective way to lift people out of poverty is to get them into full-time employment.


·         To renew the emphasis on employment and allow families the opportunity to achieve self-sufficiency, the lifetime limit for TANF benefits will be reformed to reflect the original intent of the stopgap program to provide temporary assistance to families. A soft, 48-month lifetime limit will be imposed. The new policy will allow for hardship exemptions for those families with extenuating circumstances that prevent them from finding employment. This new focus will enable staff to implement a more intensive approach to helping clients find full-time employment and reach self-sufficiency sooner. Increased agency assistance in job searches and employment options will help recipients achieve employment well before they exhaust their allotted lifetime limit.


These reforms will be implemented over the next three months, and should all be fully in place by January 1, 2012.


“These changes represent a significant change in policy, in that they treat all households equally, and create fairness across the system,” said Secretary Siedlecki. “The $10 million to $15 million savings accrued from these policy changes will go to strengthening and expanding SRS’ employment programs and getting people to work. Helping people find jobs is our first priority,” he said.