PROVEN PROGRAMS HELP FAMILIES ON THE EDGE. When families are financially secure, their children experience stability and can grow with the support they need to thrive. For too long, Kansas parents have had to navigate a system that works against them — child care that is sparse and unaffordable; rising housing, medical care, and grocery costs; and stagnant wages.
These factors lead to thousands of Kansas parents struggling to ensure their kids are cared for while at work, feed their families, provide a safe home, and access necessary health care.
Several programs could do more to help parents make ends meet. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) increases tax fairness, improves families’ mental and physical health, and increases employment. SNAP (called food assistance in Kansas) lifts tens of thousands of Kansans out of poverty each year. Access to concrete supports, including both SNAP and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), are correlated with decreased instances of child neglect and interaction with the child welfare system. WIC participation leads to healthier outcomes for parents, infants, and children.
We know that these programs, targeted at families living on low, stagnant wages, increase Kansans’ ability to stabilize their finances, plan for the future, and provide opportunities for their children.
These programs are designed to do just that—support those families who need them, help them transition into financial stability and self-sufficiency, and lead to a brighter future for all Kansas kids.
Harmful Policy Still Blocks Crucial Support to Kansas Families
Harmful legislation in 2015 and 2016, misleadingly called the HOPE Act, has prevented access to support and anti-poverty programs for Kansas children and families who need help the most. KAC and our partners have worked hard to make it easier for struggling Kansans to access programs that are proven to lift people out of poverty and temporarily help those experiencing hardships. Instead of working alongside us, the Legislature has continued to make it even harder for poor, working Kansans to put food on their tables.
Kansas is not doing all that it can to give children and families the support they need to grow up healthy and thrive, and leaders are leaving millions of federal dollars unspent in the process. Kansas has some of the most restrictive food assistance rules in the country, which are punitive to people with more than one drug felony, single parents, and working adults with unstable, unpredictable schedules. Unfortunately, the Legislature has doubled down on some of these ineffective, harmful restrictions in recent years by expanding work reporting requirements to Kansans in their 50s who struggle to make ends meet.
Kansas spends significantly less than the national average of its TANF dollars on helping families living on low wages who qualify through direct assistance, work activities, and child care. Instead, most of our TANF dollars go to activities that do not directly contribute to TANF’s core purpose of reducing poverty.
Kansas excludes eligible U.S. citizen children from receiving EITC benefits if they are in a “mixed-status” household. The Kansas Legislature has also not increased the state EITC, which could improve tax fairness and multiply the credit’s benefits for children, families, and communities.
To improve the well-being of all Kansas families, lawmakers must act to allow eligible Kansans to access family support programs. This would allow more Kansans facing often-temporary hardships to keep their families afloat while they regain stability, which is good for all Kansas communities.
To ensure Kansans can meet their families’ needs, the Kansas Legislature should:
Maximize the benefits of the EITC by supporting permanent adoption of federal eligibility expansions, increasing the Kansas EITC amount, and extending the EITC to all eligible Kansans, regardless of immigration status.
Remove barriers to TANF that currently harm those who need it most. Kansas should increase the amount of time a family can be eligible from two years to the federal rule of five years, as well as remove punitive and counterproductive work reporting requirements.
Increase access to the food assistance program by removing the ban on Kansans with more than one drug felony, remove the requirement that single parents open a child support case against their children’s non-custodial parent, reverse inflexible and punitive work and training reporting requirements for adults without dependents, and allow the Department for Children and Families to request waivers of the three-month time limit for adults without dependents in times of very high unemployment.
Support and pursue efforts to expand awareness of WIC program benefits and eligibility.