You've got to love the Republican mindset. They're all for poor-shaming while sucking up federal funds. But sometimes they wake up from their stupor and realize that they might lose those federal funds if they're too harsh.
Such is the story with Kansas, home to legislators who thought it would be just great to limit welfare recipients' debit card withdrawals to $25 per day. Then they thought better of it, before the federal government squashed them like the rats they are.
The move by Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) staff comes after federal officials advised DCF that the withdrawal limit appeared to violate some tenets of the federal law that funds the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. In a release Tuesday, DCF head Phyllis Gilmore welcomed that advice and chastised lawmakers for ignoring her prior criticism of the withdrawal limits.
“This agency did not propose the $25 cash assistance withdrawal limit,” Gilmore said. “This was an amendment offered during legislative debate. At the time of discussion on the floor, DCF advised against such a low limit. I’m pleased that we now have the guidance needed to rescind this measure.”
Kansas leaders have known for months that the limit had the potential to cripple the state’s welfare system. Federal money for TANF is conditioned on recipients “hav[ing] adequate access to their cash assistance” and facing “minimal fees or charges” for withdrawing funds. Since ATMs don’t generally dispense $5 bills, the statutory $25 limit was in practice a $20 cap. The state charges a $1 fee for all ATM withdrawals, and banks often charge fees of their own for the transactions.
Until the law was amended in June to enable Gilmore’s office to rescind the limit if the feds found it violated those conditions, there was no off-ramp. If Kansas had lost its block grant, the state might have had to scramble to come up with TANF funding from its already-underwater budget. Or it might not have – these are uncharted waters, according to Center on Budget and Policy Priorities TANF expert Donna Pavetti.
“That is a question that no one really knows the answer to. It’s not clear whether states are really obligated to provide benefits or not,” Pavetti told ThinkProgress. “There’s nothing that stipulates they have to make up federal funds with state funds. So it’s a very gray area about what would’ve actually been the consequence if they actually violated that requirement.”
I'm glad they've rescinded this, but I'm quite sure they're not done with the poors just yet. Give ALEC time and they'll come up with another Koch-sucking way to screw over people who can least afford it.