April 12, 2016

TOPEKA – In the wake of renewed efforts to further weaken the state’s safety net during the 2016 legislative session, Kansas Action for Children has released two new analyses of recently enacted welfare restrictions and its impact on the state’s poorest families. Data clearly shows the HOPE Act, passed during the 2015 legislative session, has reduced access to pathways out of poverty for families with children.

“For struggling Kansans, state-administered safety net programs are an essential lifeline to help families with children meet basic needs,” said Shannon Cotsoradis, President and CEO of Kansas Action for Children. “Less than a year since its implementation, the HOPE Act has already harmed Kansas’ most vulnerable kids.”

Among the report’s key findings:

  • The number of Kansas children living in poor families continues to linger far above pre-recession levels. Since 2007, the Kansas childhood poverty rate increased 20 percent.
  • The safety net (cash assistance and child care assistance) is reaching far fewer children over the same time period. In 2007, pre-recession, an average of 26,633 Kansas children received cash assistance each month. By 2015, that number dropped by more than half to 11,038, even though more children were living in families with low incomes. By March 2016, just 8,506 Kansas children had access to cash assistance.
  • Credible peer-reviewed research shows that participating in safety net programs like Medicaid, cash assistance, child care assistance, and food assistance improves outcomes for kids.

A supplemental report outlined the consequences of prohibiting the spending of cash assistance outside state lines and limiting ATM withdrawals of cash assistance:

  • Three out of every four out-of-state cash assistance transactions take place in Kansas’ bordering states, while more than one in three Kansans who receives cash assistance live in a county that borders another state.
  • Kansas is the only state that bans participants from spending cash assistance in neighboring states.
  • Because Kansas charges more sales tax on food than any state in the country, a Kansas family spending $100 on groceries each week saves $274 in sales tax each year by shopping in Missouri, or $338 by shopping in Colorado or Nebraska.

“Policymakers may be well intended in their desire to promote self-sufficiency among poor Kansas families, but data shows the most economically fragile Kansas children need access to the safety net,” said Cotsoradis. “Keeping the HOPE Act’s unnecessary restrictions in place does nothing but increase the likelihood that today’s poor children will become tomorrow’s poor adults.”

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