Archive for Monday, January 21, 2013

Opinion: Secretary defends programs for needy

January 21, 2013


The Lawrence Journal-World’s Jan. 10 editorial characterizes state policies for the administration of the federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program as a “cause for concern.” As the secretary of the Kansas Department for Children and Families, I want to assure your readers that is just not the case.

The policy changes that DCF has implemented have primarily been to encourage, and, yes, require those who receive taxpayer-funded benefits to seek employment, participate in employment training or become employed.

Cash assistance, the federal program now called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families is a time-limited program meant to be a bridge from poverty to employment. TANF was created by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, the “welfare to work” legislation that was the most significant reform of America’s welfare system in history. At the core of the 1996 reform act was a work requirement for all able-bodied recipients.

For the first time, welfare was to be managed like a work program, in which individuals were mandated to work or participate in work activities to be eligible for benefits, and because of this historic change to the way welfare had been administered, “welfare to work” was an unmitigated success.

On a national level, the mandated work requirement led to huge reductions in the welfare rolls, historic levels of employment, and child poverty was reduced to an all-time low. Low-income Americans gained freedom from dependency, which had plagued families for multiple generations. Through work, these individuals were given a path to self-sufficiency and ultimately an opportunity to succeed.

Full-time employment is the key to reducing poverty. This is exactly why every significant policy change we have implemented at DCF has focused on employment. When Gov. Brownback took office in January 2011, the TANF work programs were failing and individuals were languishing on the welfare rolls instead of receiving the help they needed to gain employment.

Kansas performed so poorly compared to other states in policy reforms following the passage of the 1996 welfare reform act that we received a grade of “F” from the Heartland Institute, a public policy think tank based in Chicago, in its state-by-state analysis. Most other states, through employment-focused TANF policies, had reduced their welfare rolls on average by 64 percent since 1996. Kansas’ rolls had been reduced by only 40 percent, 47th in the nation.

Our state’s welfare system needed to follow through with the policies intended by the 1996 “welfare to work” reform legislation. So, in October 2011, DCF implemented policies that emphasize work. And we are now seeing the success of those policies. The TANF caseloads are dropping, and we are getting individuals off of the welfare rolls and into employment. Since July 2011, TANF caseloads in Kansas have dropped by an extraordinary 33 percent. We have accomplished this incredible feat through sound policy changes which encourage and emphasize work.

The work requirement in our welfare system is a proven method for increasing employment and decreasing childhood poverty. Our agency is committed to helping individuals to bridge the gap between poverty and full-time employment. By providing needed support and assisting our TANF clients to become employed we offer them the opportunity to lift their families out of poverty, and in doing so we give them an opportunity for a brighter future.


Phillbert 5 years, 2 months ago

I recommend people read this article on the effects of the secretary's actions on poor Kansas families and children:

It contains this gem regarding the secretary's claims that people who aren't receiving benefits anymore have gotten jobs: "Gilmore says that although officials do not have the data to back up their claim, they feel it’s a natural assumption."

Plus, the only example the agency gives to back up their "assumption" is of a worker who was moved off of welfare and onto the agency's own payroll! Apparently Republicans think government jobs are sometimes ok after all.

Kudos for the LJW standing up to the administration of the candidate it endorsed. The poor have few other advocates.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 2 months ago

I did read the article you linked. Eight children, in a variety of combinations of mothers and fathers, by a woman who saw one (step) parent murdered and then had children by a man who would be convicted of armed robbery and then murder. Then there is her own drug use of a period of time, including those times she was bearing more children. While we're making assumptions, might we include that the children suffer cognitive and/or behavioral difficulties as a result of their mother's behavior? These are the decisions a person has made for themselves.

The government can provide public housing and is in fact doing just that. The government can provide for food and clothing as well. But there are some problems government will simply be unable to solve. People have the right to make poor choices for themselves and their children. And as long as they have that right, it's an obstacle government cannot overcome.

Phillbert 5 years, 2 months ago

It will never be overcome if children are punished for the sins of their parents.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 2 months ago

Keeping children in that dysfunctional situation is punishment. Taking them out is punishment as well. Got a real solution? I don't, and I worked in social work for years.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 5 years, 2 months ago

I am sure you guys know this for sure and you are stating facts backed up with personal verification?

Thomas Bryce Jr. 5 years, 2 months ago

They are responding to An Opinion with An Opinion. Since when did verifiable facts Become so important to You? Have You used any Lately?

Orwell 5 years, 2 months ago

Looks like your shift key is acting up. Might want to look into that.

Bob_Keeshan 5 years, 2 months ago

In other reporting, Gilmore was much more succinct in summing up her position:

If people don’t want to follow those rules, “then don’t use my money,” Gilmore said.

"My money", Secretary Gilmore? Pretty powerful comment, and one that belies the repeated usage of "our" in your column. You clearly don't consider this "our" money at all; you consider it "yours".

weeslicket 5 years, 2 months ago

here are some reported facts from ms. gilmore:

  1. Most other states, through employment-focused TANF policies, had reduced their welfare rolls on average by 64 percent since 1996.

  2. Kansas’ rolls had been reduced by only 40 percent, 47th in the nation.

  3. Since July 2011, TANF caseloads in Kansas have dropped by an EXTRAORDINARY 33 percent. (caps mine)

it is extraordinary when 33% is greater than 40%, and maybe even greater than 64%.

tomatogrower 5 years, 2 months ago

I wasn't concerned with the work requirement, but 20 applications a week? If you live in a small town how is that possible?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 2 months ago

The "success" of so-called welfare to work is a lie. It has removed people from the welfare rolls, but it's actually increased the poverty rate in the process.

Soss, Joe (2002). Success Stories. South End Press. p. 65. ISBN 0-89608-658-5.

"The TANF program does not offer benefits sufficient to lift recipients out of poverty, and despite a strong economy, the majority of families who have moved off the TANF rolls have remained in poverty. Considerations of another traditional economic goal, reduction of inequality, only makes matters worse. Welfare reform has coincided with massive growth in income and wealth disparities; it has done little to slow the expansion of inequality and may have actually accelerated the trend. Has welfare reform created job opportunities for the poor? Has it promoted wages that allow low-wage workers to escape poverty? In both of these areas, the economic story remains the same: we have little evidence that reform has produced achievements that warrant the label of success."

And it's only gotten worse in the decade since he wrote this.

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