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Free market economist sees positives in Kansas welfare reform

An economist with the Sandlian Center for Entrepreneurial Government at the Kansas Policy Institute says that welfare
reform measures in Kansas have worked.

“Before welfare reform, in 2013, getting back to single mothers, 41% of single mothers lived at or below poverty,” said Michael Austin. “About 50% of them received some sort of welfare check. Two years after placing in those work requirements, the number of single moms on welfare dropped 7 points. The share of single moms working, that turned upwards and most importantly, the poverty rate for single mothers also dropped. It dropped by 5 points.”

The biggest welfare reform change in Kansas came through the HOPE ACT in 2015.

“It’s a real safety net,” said Austin. “A safety net which has the intention of returning people to work as soon as possible. It’s the best of both worlds. It’s a way that we can make sure that we can help those who are most down on their luck, like those who might be homeless or single-parent families. It’s also to acknowledge that the best way we can help them is to encourage them to reengage with society.”

Austin reminds us that welfare reform is not just a Republican idea.

“This is also the same type of reform that President Clinton did in the 1990s,” Austin said. “Putting in work requirements, strengthening time limits on food assistance and other cash programs. It helped the U.S. economy in the 90s and it’s helping Kansas now.”

Austin asserts that there are ample opportunities for Kansans to achieve independence and find the dignity of work without long-term assistance from the state.


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