Thursday, May 2, 2013

Rules tighten on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families recipients

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

Low-income mothers in Kansas will have to participate in a work program sooner after giving birth to receive cash assistance, according to new rules by the Kansas Department for Children and Families.

The changes will "bring expectations more in line with what the expectations are in the private sector, since that is what an employee can expect to receive from an employer," said Angela de Rocha, a spokeswoman for DCF.

The changes deal with a program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Mothers used to be able to receive TANF benefits for six months after the birth of a child before having to participate in a work program. Now that has been shortened to two months.

"The expectation will now be that the mother will have to actively engage in work activities after her child is two months old. Work activities could range from job preparation workshops, short-term training to direct job placement," de Rocha said. She said support services will be available to the mother.

De Rocha said it could be argued that the more time the mother stays at home with a newborn, the better, but she added, "However, the reality is that there are limitations if one is a productive member of the workforce, as most gainfully employed non-TANF mothers are well aware."

Additionally, mothers with a small child used to have to work 20 hours per week to qualify for child-care assistance. Now that is 28 hours per week.

TANF is a federally funded program that is administered by DCF.

Currently, 22,000 people receive cash assistance through TANF. In 2012, TANF expenditures totaled $42.1 million in Kansas, and the average payment was $282 per month.

Last month, Gov. Sam Brownback signed into law a bill that would allow drug testing of TANF recipients who are suspected of drug use.