The following editorial is attributed to Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita:
I applaud Governor Kelly, alongside her administration, for their unwavering commitment to every Kansan. Since day one, they have worked hard to do what’s best for Kansans and their families. Governing is hard enough but cleaning up the mess left behind by Brownback and Colyer makes it much more difficult.
Most recently, Governor Kelly has been trying to make changes to assistance programs to help Kansans struggling to make ends meet. One of the most devastating Brownback/Colyer policies was the HOPE Act. This law has made it very difficult for Kansans to take care for themselves and their families during hard times. It created restrictions that are particularly cruel to women and children.
The law increased work requirements for mothers of infant children. Although federal law allows a new mother 12 months to care for her infant before returning to work, the HOPE Act slashed that time down to just 3 months. The younger the child, the more childcare costs. Plus, it’s more difficult to find openings for infants. Additionally, the law made it so childcare assistance is only eligible to parents who work a minimum of 28 hours, an increase from the federal requirement of 20 hours.
The Brownback/Colyer administration also capped the lifetime eligibility for cash and food assistance to 2 years. They rejected federal grants for food banks that assist families in need. And, they removed eligibility for assistance from domestic violence victims – mostly women.
Since the HOPE Act became law, average monthly enrollment in the Kansas Childcare Assistance Program dropped significantly, and there has been a sharp reduction in cash assistance and food assistance. It’s not because fewer Kansans need it – it’s because they cannot access it due to egregious barriers.
Most families who need assistance worked before and work after exiting the program. But life happens, and not everyone has the luxury of a stable, good-paying full-time job with benefits like paid time off. If someone is sick or injured and must miss work, that also means they miss a paycheck. These Kansans still need to eat, keep a roof over their heads, and provide for their families.
Restricting benefits hurts Kansas families. Children who lose or are denied benefits are more likely to enter foster care, which is why the number of children in foster care has skyrocketed since the passage of the HOPE Act. These restrictions also make it harder for victims of domestic abuse to become survivors.
Governor Kelly and her administration are right to be adjusting these programs to provide real hope for Kansas families. I look forward to the 2020 Legislative Session and working to make the necessary legislative changes to ensure everyone can take care of themselves and their families while they find a job.
Paid for by The Senate Democrats Committee, Kerry Gooch, Treasurer.