Letter to the editor: Tearing safety net

To the editor:

Late last month, Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration announced its intent to tie able-bodied adults’ Medicaid eligibility to their being employed.

Angela de Rocha, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, told the Topeka Capital-Journal, “There is no down side to work requirements. It’s good for their quality of life.” KDADS, she noted, had successfully nudged thousands of low-income families off the state’s TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) rolls.

She forgot to mention that both Medicaid and cash assistance (another name for TANF) are reserved for the poorest of the poor. For a nondisabled adult to be eligible for either benefit, he or she must be caring for children.

For a single, nondisabled adult with two young children to be on Medicaid, the family’s income cannot exceed $7,644 a year; that’s less than $650 a month. If they’re lucky, the family might get as much as $375 a month in cash assistance.

As administration officials were touting the benefits of forcing destitute parents into the low-wage workforce, Department for Child and Families Secretary Phyllis Gilmore found herself struggling to explain why the state’s foster-care numbers have gone through the roof in recent years.

A reasonable person might wonder if the increase has anything to do with the administration poking giant holes in a safety net that was already stretched thin.