- Associated Press - Thursday, February 12, 2015

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri families could receive welfare benefits for a maximum of four years and would lose the payments if parents don’t look for work or get training under a proposal approved by the state Senate Thursday that critics said could harm the poor.

The measure, which needs a second Senate vote before it can move to the House for review, would reduce the lifetime limit from five years to four and would cut access to benefits if parents don’t look for work or participate in other work-related activities. The bill would take the money saved by the reduction in the lifetime limit to provide more child care assistance, transportation and education for welfare recipients.

At issue are participants in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which gives a monthly allowance to low-income households.

Republican Sen. David Sater of Cassville, who sponsored the legislation, said he wants to push recipients to find work and reinvest savings from the program in programs to help employ those individuals.

“They need that child care assistance to have a job,” Sater said.

The legislation also would eventually cut access to benefits if parents don’t look for work or participate in other work-related activities, although negotiations across the aisle scaled back how quickly those sanctions would kick in.

To receive benefits, parents are required to spend between 20 and 35 hours per week in work activities such as job training, subsidized employment and searching for jobs.

Democrats have said the bill could hurt low-income families and parents who might unintentionally violate state work requirements for temporary assistance.

An earlier version of the measure would have cut a family’s benefits for one month if a parent doesn’t, but Republican lawmakers compromised with Democrats to scale back those sanctions.

Department of Social Services workers would meet with parents found to have violated those obligations before any benefits would be taken away under the current draft of the proposal.

The recipients would have six weeks to come back into compliance and then would have benefits cut in half for at most 10 weeks if they fail to do so. They would need to work a minimum average of 30 hours a week for a month to continue receiving help.

“I’m supportive of providing support for the families that need it,” said Democratic Sen. Jason Holsman of Kansas City. “But I’m also interested in helping citizens become self-sufficient and breaking the cycle of dependency.”

The bill is one of several proposed this session that aim to limit welfare benefits. The House passed legislation earlier this month that would link the weeks of benefits that unemployed workers can receive to the statewide unemployment rate and could limit the time available to as few as 13 weeks.


Welfare bills are SB 24 and HB 150.


Senate: https://www.senate.mo.gov


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