Commentary written by Travis Perry, who can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @muckraker62.
Opponents unleashed a torrent of anger on state officials after Kansas announced this week it would be returning to pre-recession policy for awarding food stamp benefits.
But at the center of the debate is a single question: What’s so wrong about asking healthy adults to hold down a part-time job?
Absolutely nothing, said Salina Republican Rep. J.R. Claeys.
Kansans receiving food stamps will need to find a part time after three months of benefits. Photo Credit: Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images
“There’s nothing wrong with asking a capable, single individual with no dependents to hold down a 20 hour a week job after receiving benefits for three months,” Claeys told Kansas Watchdog. “That is plenty of time to find a part-time job anywhere in Kansas.”
At issue is a decision by the Kansas Department for Children and Families to decline the continuation of a 2009 waiver that allowed states to extend Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits – commonly known as food stamps – year round to single adults with no children living in areas with unemployment exceeding 10 percent.Starting Oct. 1, healthy adults ages 18-49 receiving aid will need to hold a part-time job or enroll in a job-training program within three months to continue receiving SNAP benefits.
According to the Kansas Department of Labor, the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in July was 5.9 percent. Kansas was given the option to continue the waiver despite lower unemployment figures, but state officials declined. The decision will affect about 20,000 Kansans.
The Kansas Center for Economic Growth was among those balking at the change in work requirements. Executive Director Annie McKay declined to speak with us about why it’s so unreasonable to expect people who can work to actually, well, work. However, she was more than happy to point us in the direction of a prepared statement the group released Wednesday.
In the statement, McKay says that the job market still hasn’t improved enough for the unemployed to find even the most basic job.
“Thousands of Kansans are struggling to find a way back into the workforce,” McKay said in the statement. “Cutting off supports such as SNAP only makes it more difficult for them to get back on their feet at a time when the jobs outlook does not support a policy shift such as this.”
But Claeys isn’t buying that argument. He told the Huffington Post that there are entry-level, part-time jobs in the service and retail industry across the state.
“Kansas spends billions each year on programs to help the poor. We need to make sure the people using these programs are truly the ones in need,” Claeys said. “When capable individuals take up space and resources in our programs, there’s potential for someone to be turned away who really needs the services; specifically, the disabled and single parents who have young children to care for.”
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