Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Tougher Rules Shrink Missouri Welfare Rolls, Advocates for the Poor Say

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Tougher Rules Shrink Missouri Welfare Rolls, Advocates for the Poor Say

Article excerpt

Change in the number of people receiving temporary cash assistance in Missouri:

March 2011 April 2016

Total: 109,639 37,486 66% decrease

Children: 72,276 27,432 62% decrease

Source: Missouri Department of Social Services

JEFFERSON CITY * New figures show the number of poor people receiving temporary cash benefits in Missouri has plummeted in the past five years.

And, the number is expected to nosedive further in the coming months under a proposed new law that calls for the state to scrub the welfare rolls to eliminate people who aren't eligible for the aid.

According to the most recent monthly statistics obtained by the Post-Dispatch, the total number of people receiving temporary cash assistance through April was 37,486. That's down from 109,639 in March 2011, according to the Missouri Department of Social Services.

Although the economy has improved since 2011, advocates for the poor say the steep drop is not because more people are finding jobs. Rather, they are pointing to efforts by the Republican-controlled Legislature to tighten the path toward benefits.

Last year, for example, the GOP-led House and Senate overrode Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of a bill that limited the length of time families could receive the benefits from a lifetime maximum of 60 months to 45 months.

In addition, they ramped up requirements for low-income parents to get job training, do volunteer work or complete high school and vocational education.

Under the work changes, recipients must sign a "personal responsibility plan" outlining their work activities before they are eligible for cash benefits. If they miss their work assignments, they must meet face-to-face with a caseworker. They would then have six weeks to get back on track. Initially they would lose 50 percent of their assistance. If the problem is not fixed, they lose the entire benefit.

As of May 2016, for example, the Department of Social Services said a total of 4,134 families failed to meet the work requirement and were cut off from cash benefits averaging about $224 a month.

In vetoing the bill last year, Nixon called the proposal cruel and warned lawmakers that it would hurt the state's children. …

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