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Disability News /KLKC

New Welfare Restrictions Questioned

Topeka, Ks (Dave Ranney/KHI News) -  The Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services has begun suspending welfare benefits for parents who fail to take part in work-preparation programs or fail to meet other new agency requirements.  As of Nov. 1, according to agency officials, parents who “fail to participate without good cause” in work training sessions will lose their family’s cash and child-care assistance for three months. 

The training involves attending classes, discussion groups and work-site programs intended to help parents land jobs.  The Kansas Health Institute News Service reports that parents – young, single mothers, mostly – will face similar penalties if they won't identify a child’s non-custodial parent or help SRS file a child-support order with the court. 

Parents who don't comply with the new rules also will have their food stamps suspended, though food stamps will continue to be provided for children in the household. Federal law prevents the state from cutting off the nutrition assistance to the children.  The new penalties, which did not require or receive legislative approval, were outlined in a one-page sheet distributed at local SRS offices earlier this month. 

After an initial suspension of benefits, second and third failures to comply with the new rules will result in six- and 12-month suspensions, respectively. Prior to Nov. 1, a parent who wasn’t meeting the requirements would have been warned that their family could lose their cash assistance or see their food stamps reduced. Those who balked were penalized, those who complied were not. 

A family’s benefits were restored when the parent corrected his or her behaviors. Steve Lohr, executive director at the Southeast Kansas Community Action Program, a 12-county, anti-poverty program based in Girard, said “The penalties have always been there. What’s different now is the enforcement. There used to be some flexibility. Now things are pretty hard and fast.”