TOPEKA (KSNT) — A new Kansas law is getting national attention, but some say it’s not for the right reasons. Governor Sam Brownback signed the ‘Hope Act’ into law Thursday and he says it’s the most comprehensive welfare reform any state has enacted, but some critics think it goes too far.
Many Kansans say they’re outraged new restrictions mean welfare recipients can’t use cash assistance at places like swimming pools, nail salons, or movie theaters, just to name a few.
“I think it’s mean spirited,” said Richard Jackson, a former welfare recipient. Jackson isn’t alone, the law is now receiving national attention. Just last week on the Daily Show John Stewart joined the conversation, “Oh! So if you’re on Welfare in Kansas, You can cross this mall off your list,” said Stewart. That’s just one example of the criticism Kansas is facing.
But beyond those restrictions, Brownback says the law also supports employment programs and should reduce dependence on state aid. “It gives hope and help to thousands of Kansans that they can break the cycle of poverty,” said Gov. Brownback.
Former welfare recipient Valerie Cahill thinks the new rules are fair and set realistic expectations about aid being temporary. “When you go into it knowing that then it’s easier for you to get involved in a work program, and move forward with your life,” said Cahill.
Jackson agrees getting people jobs is a good thing, his problem with the law is how it makes all welfare recipients look greedy. “They’re painting that they’re shiftless, that they’re trying to rip off the system, and when you stop and think, everybody gets something from the system,” said Jackson. Jackson believes anyone could be a paycheck away from needing assistance and no one should feel demonized when asking for help.
The Department for Children and Families says they will continue monitoring the new changes over the next year, and if they find something isn’t working, Governor Brownback says he’s more than willing to have the legislature re-evaluate the law.
Those new restrictions go into effect starting July 1. For a full list of the new restrictions click here.