With a flurry of philosophical in-fighting, Kansas has subtly turned that human malady of being “able bodied” into a character flaw that should be punished, or at least not tolerated when distributing food stamps.
You remember the issue: The Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF), or at least a handful of its managers, decided that it would give about $110 a month in food stamps to about 5,500 single, no-dependents, able-bodied Kansans between 18 and 49 years old. Nope, not forever, just for three additional months above the three-month per 36-month period of assistance for those who are poor. Oh, and to those who haven’t found a 20-hour-a-week job or participated in state-managed employment training and job search activities.
Those three extra months — July, August and September — were incidentally falling at the end of the three-year restart of the federal food stamp eligibility program in which the federal government pays for those food stamps and pays the state half its administrative costs in distributing them.
House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins, R-Wichita, recalled that back in 2015 the Gov. Sam Brownback governorship managed to convince the more-conservative-than-now Legislature to clean up the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program to make sure that those welfare recipients weren’t scamming the federal government out of money through the state welfare qualification standards.
The concept: Those welfare recipients should be working like everyone else and supporting themselves, no spending on vacations or other frivolous activities, just survival, if they met the training and job-search and minimum employment standards.
Now, that’s a pretty good standard. People ought to work for a living if they can, maybe get a little assistance while they are in a tough spot, but basically get back to work.
Well, Hawkins pushed Attorney General Derek Schmidt into closing down the new, short-term food stamp program by threatening Gov. Laura Kelly with a lawsuit: She was disregarding the 2015 law, which she had voted against while a senator, which limited eligibility for food stamps and even outlawed asking the feds for some wriggle room in distributing food stamps.
Kelly decided that it would cost the state more money than it is worth to defend the three-month program against the state attorney general. Probably a fair call, not spending state money on lawyers to defend handing out federal money to the poor.
But, at some point, you almost have to wonder whether the response to DCF spending that federal money on poor people — and probably some are scammers, but probably others have aged out of foster care or are jobless veterans or just can’t find work they can handle — is worth the political scrap it fueled. It’s probably one of those situations where lawmakers could have looked the other way — until Oct. 1 — given away food stamps and later said, “Darn.”
Everyone out there who thinks that we’re paying too much in federal taxes and aren’t getting enough back for it, well, you remain correct. The state is sending back those food stamps, so they will go to poor people in other states, where we don’t have to walk around people begging on the sidewalk or at stoplights or at exits from malls, who will spend the money at grocery stores in other states.
Syndicated by Hawver News Company LLC of Topeka; Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver’s Capitol Report — to learn more about this nonpartisan statewide political news service, visit the website at www.hawvernews.com