Legislative Column for the Week of Feb. 16, 2015
Ensuring Fair and Equal Treatment
of All Missouri Citizens

Last week, Senate Bill 24, which modifies provisions of law relating to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), received substantial debate on the Senate floor. In order to fight the poverty that plagues some citizens in our state, it is important to create more work-related activities and enforce stricter work participation requirements. In order to achieve this, we must reform Missouri’s failing welfare programs.

Missouri currently falls dead last in the United States for welfare reform policies, while only 13.5 percent of those receiving TANF benefits are actually meeting work activity requirements. Currently, there is only a 25 percent reduction in the amount of money received if work requirements are not met. In addition, Missouri allows 24 months to lapse before even enforcing work requirements on recipients.

Due to the vast amount of benefits offered through Missouri’s welfare programs, recipients are using the program as an incentive not to work. Thirty-seven states have already adopted strict work requirements that ensure all applicants must meet work requirements before they could even become eligible for the program.

If SB 24 passes, the amount of money reduced, due to noncompliance, would increase to 50 percent, the life-time limit an applicant could receive these benefits would also be reduced from 68 months to 48 months, and recipients would be required to participate in a minimum of 30 hours of work activities per week.

Senate Bill 24 is not designed to cut welfare, but rather restructure the program in order to redirect money towards incentives such as childcare, job training and transportation services in order to get Missourians back in the workforce. By doing this, we are able to fight poverty in a more direct manner and allow the state more flexibility when it comes to TANF dollars.

Missouri needs to create an environment where citizens suffering from poverty are given every opportunity to enter the work program and increase their incomes. However, it is important these programs are not used as a supplemental income. Eighty-three percent of Americans believe these benefits should include work requirements.

As Ronald Reagan once said, “We should measure welfare’s success by how many people leave welfare, not by how may are added.” We need to encourage more workforce and less dependency on these programs. Our goal is to strengthen personal accountability for welfare policies and aid Missourians in building financial independence. The best way to overcome poverty is by entering the workforce and remaining there. We want all Missourians to live the American Dream, but to achieve this dream you must work for it.

Senate Bill 24 has been perfected and awaits final approval from the Senate before moving to the House.

These programs are imperative to the state of Missouri and play a vital role in the lives of many citizens.  It is important that we are taking steps towards not only ensuring Missouri benefits stay in Missouri, but that they are not misused or taken advantage of. I am very pleased to see legislation such as SB 24 and Senate Bill 35, which I sponsored and discussed in last week’s legislative column, moving to the House for similar consideration.

I urge you to contact me with any questions or concerns you have about state government so that I can better represent you during the 2015 Legislative Session.

Contact Me

I always appreciate hearing your comments, opinions, and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-2459. You may write me at Wayne Wallingford, Missouri Senate, State Capitol, Jefferson City, MO 65101, or email at wayne.wallingford@senate.mo.gov or www.senate.mo.gov/wallingford.

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