After taking office in 2011, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback implemented some of the boldest welfare reforms in the nation in an effort to reduce dependency and help struggling families get back on their feet. These reforms include
commonsense work requirements, smarter sanction policies, lower time limits, and stronger child support provisions, to name a few. Overall, these reforms have led to more employment, higher incomes, and less dependency.
One of the first changes Governor Brownback implemented was stronger sanctions for able-bodied adults who receive cash assistance but refuse to work, search for work, or participate in job training. Kansas also implemented an innovative tracking system to monitor employment for more than 6,000 families who left cash assistance as a result of these changes.
In short, parents who left dependency re-entered the labor force and found work in more than 600 different industries. These families have seen their incomes steadily rise, more than doubling within the first year. This increase in income more than offset lost cash welfare benefits, leaving them better off than they were before, providing a boost to the local economy and additional state tax revenue that can be dedicated to critical priorities.
The overwhelmingly positive result of Kansas’ welfare reform presents important lessons for policymakers in other states and in Washington D.C. Work requirements are an essential tool to help struggling individuals and families get back on their feet. Policymakers everywhere who are serious about reducing dependency should follow Kansas’ lead.