09 March 2022 | Health Economic Security

RELEASE: SB 501 Is Bad for Kansas Kids

March 9, 2022
Contact: Jessica Herrera Russell

TOPEKA, Kansas – The Senate Committee on Public Health and Welfare is scheduled to meet on Thursday, March 10, to hold a hearing on SB 501, a cookie cutter bill that would make requirements for Kansans to access family support programs even stricter than they already are.

SB 501 would put more than 96,000 households receiving food assistance and more than 300,000 children receiving Medicaid at risk of losing access to the nutrition and health care they need to survive. The bill comes to Kansas as the United States nears the two-year mark of impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in many Kansas families losing stable income, housing, and health care.

“This is a classic example of a solution in search of a problem. This bill isn't necessary, especially as we're still recovering from the pandemic,” said John Wilson, KAC President and CEO. “Lawmakers should be making it easier for low-income Kansas families to get on firm financial footing and escape the trap of poverty. Instead, they intend to waste time and taxpayer money on addressing non-existent problems of ‘fraud’ in family support programs.

“SB 501 is full of restrictions that perpetuate harmful and untrue stereotypes of families that use temporary family support programs. And this bill would waste millions of dollars in taxpayer money with no benefit, instead of focusing time and resources on actually helping Kansans who are struggling to make ends meet.”

A few of the concerning provisions include:

  • New reporting and verification processes that require rapid and extensive bureaucratic expansion of state agencies, which would result in adding a significant number of new full-time positions for the Department for Children and Families and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment;

  • Requiring extreme and costly program participant data sharing and review between several state agencies, which would require new technology systems, practices, and staff positions at Kansas taxpayers’ expense; and

  • Enacts new mandates for those Kansans who are facing temporary financial hardship and are trying to get back on their feet and back on the path to self-sufficiency, such as changing the amount of time a food assistance recipient must report household changes from the 10th day of the month after the change to just 10 days after the change occurs.

The bill is a result of poorly drafted model legislation distributed by Opportunity Solutions Project, a Florida-based lobby organization.

Wilson continued, “The restrictions set forth in SB 501 damage the effectiveness and efficiency of state agencies who administer these programs, and we believe that the motivation behind the bill is to do just that. Senators must listen to the people in their communities who will be impacted by this dangerous legislation — not out-of-state, big money lobbying groups determined to question the dignity of hard-working Kansas families.”