Last week, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon visited Operation Breakthrough to announce his intention to veto SB 24. This bill was drafted with the intention of “reforming welfare” but the reality is that it will punish our families by placing a more restrictive life-time time limit for receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) from the current 60 months to only 24 months effective January 2016. The immediate impact will take away the cash income of an estimated 9,500 Missourians. Of these, 6,310 are children and 3,400 are under the age of 5.
The families who receive Missouri’s very low TANF benefits (at a maximum of 18% of the federal poverty level) already struggle to pay for their rent, utilities, food and other basic needs. To give you an idea of the amount, a mother with 3 children is currently only eligible to receive $292 per month! When fragile families lose this modest cash assistance, children are more likely to wind up homeless.
SB 24 ends our ability to provide food stamps to childless adults in times of high unemployment and that also has a consequence for children. It sends tens of thousands of Missourians into deeper hunger so that they rely more on food pantries and food banks, increasing demand for resources that are already inadequate to meet community need. That means food assistance providers give less per applicant, limit the number of times families can be helped each year, or set up other kinds of food triage. (Our food pantry is seeing more people every day.) In addition, many veterans are in this category of “childless adult” who will be denied food. Our children and veterans should not go hungry!
The governor has suggested alternative ways to streamline spending and ensure accountability from payees without penalizing their children. We need to send our legislators back to the drawing board!
It is expected that a vote to uphold or overturn the governor’s veto will happen on or before May 15th. If you are a Missouri resident, please contact your state legislators and ask them to uphold the governor’s veto!