- Associated Press - Saturday, April 18, 2015

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A woman often cited by Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration as a success story of a former welfare recipient is working as a temporary state employee.

Valerie Cahill, whom the Republican governor mentioned in his State of the State address - and who also spoke at the signing ceremony of a bill creating additional restrictions on those receiving cash assistance - is listed on the state employee database as an employee of the agency that crafted the welfare reforms and administers the job training program.

Theresa Freed, a spokeswoman for the Department for Children and Families, said in an email to the Wichita Eagle (https://bit.ly/1Jcf8io ) that Cahill, a Kansas City, Kansas, resident, is a full-time temporary employee of the department working in a program helping needy families with energy expenses.

Cahill spoke alongside the governor and DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore on Thursday at the signing of a bill that would bar welfare recipients from spending their cash assistance on a long list of things, including swimming pools, tattoos, alcohol and movie theaters.

The bill also sets a lifetime limit of 36 months to receive cash assistance and requires able-bodied adults to participate in a job training program or work 20 hours a week in order to qualify for benefits.

“As is in the circle of life, we can’t carry our children forever. We eventually need to put them down and move freely,” Cahill said in a speech at the bill’s signing ceremony. “That’s what the work programs are for. They are to help us get on our feet, so we can move and do something better for ourselves.”

At Gilmore’s prompting, Cahill also told a story about how with the money from her paycheck she was able to buy her son a cello.

Neither Cahill nor Gilmore offered details about Cahill’s job, and after the ceremony Cahill declined to say what she does. She did say she began working in late November after 11 months on public assistance and that her current position was “state-related.”

Freed said in the emailed statement that neither Cahill nor another former welfare recipient who now works for the department and spoke in favor of the reforms were “in any way forced to speak or support the legislation.”

The department has said the job-requirement policies, which were in effect before the signing, have resulted in more than 6,000 people finding jobs. Freed said the agency does not track which of those jobs are in the private or public sector.

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, https://www.kansas.com

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