Stopping a Sinking Ship: Recipients Banned from Using Welfare Funds on Cruises

In an effort to ensure state welfare funds are being utilized properly, the Kansas state legislature enacted a new law containing multiple reforms; including banning recipients from using their state welfare funds on cruise ships and other luxuries.

The real question is why are welfare funds being used on cruise ships in the first place?

The new law also requires recipients of “TANF”, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, to have their ATM cash withdrawals capped at a $25 dollar limit per member, per day.  By limiting cash benefits the state is attempting to encourage more responsible spending of those receiving assistance.

Along with the daily cash ATM limits, TANF recipients are banned from using their state welfare funds outside of Kansas as well as any instate liquor store, massage parlor, casino, tattoo parlor, bail bond company, fortune tellers and more, in addition to banning the use of funds on cruise ships.

Kansas welfare enrollment has decreased dramatically since Republican Governor Sam Brownback was elected four years ago.  As part of their anti-poverty strategy, Republicans claim limiting cash benefits and banning misuse of TANF funds will dissuade participants from abusing the program. They want the program to encourage recipients to spend more responsibly and eventually move people toward prosperity and away from government dependence.

Republican State Senator Michael O’Donnell pushed hard for the bill explaining, “We’re trying to make sure those benefits are used the way they were intended. This is about prosperity. This is about having a great life,” he said.

The hotly debated bill received harsh criticism including from state Senator Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, calling it “mean-spirited” and claiming malicious intent was the motivation behind the bill.  But the welfare reforms enacted over the course of Brownback’s tenure have helped encourage a TANF enrollment drop from 38,900 in 2011 to 17,600 in 2014.  And Senator O’Donnell claims over 6,000 TANF participants were able to leave the program due to obtaining jobs in 2014 alone.

Every dollar saved through welfare reform is a dollar that can be given to the truly vulnerable for food or other necessities; not tattoos or items on a cruise ship. And for those who are now employed and moving on from the system, it offers them the possibility of providing luxury items for their families, like a cruise, but with their own hard earned money; not someone else’s.

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