Kansas has dropped its limit on the amount of money that welfare recipients can withdraw from an ATM after federal officials said that policy conflicted with federal law.
The legislature passed numerous welfare reforms in April including a $25 limit on the amount of cash that beneficiaries of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families could withdraw from an ATM at one time.
The Kansas Department for Children and Families announced Tuesday that it would rescind the limit after officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicated in an email Monday that the provision “would seem to prevent a needy TANF family from having ‘adequate access to their cash assistance.’”
The Wichita Eagle and McClatchy Newspapers first reported in May that the policy could put the state at odds with a provision in the Social Security Act that requires states to ensure welfare program beneficiaries have adequate access to their cash assistance with minimal fees.
The state receives more than $100 million in aid for the temporary assistance welfare program, and the policy could have put that aid at risk.
The Legislature passed a second bill to empower Department for Children and Families Secretary Phyllis Gilmore to raise or eliminate the cap to ensure the state complies with federal law. But the state included the limit when it published new welfare regulations last week.
Theresa Freed, the agency spokeswoman, said at the time that the bill empowered the secretary only to raise the cap with “‘guidance’ from the federal government.”
Freed said then that federal officials had asked the agency questions but not instructed it to lift the cap.
Sen. Michael O’Donnell, a Wichita Republican, who carried both bills on the Senate floor, questioned that Monday and told The Eagle that the second bill was intended to allow the department to raise the cap unilaterally.
The agency then lifted the cap within a day. But Freed maintained that the agency had made no reversal. She said it interpreted the federal e-mail as its guidance and acted accordingly.
The comment was included with a list of questions, but Freed said it was “a statement and not a question,” which gave the department the power to act, unlike previous communications.
O’Donnell said he had been pressing the agency to act.
“It was important to a number of legislators just to make sure we were in compliance with HHS,” O’Donnell said Tuesday after the agency announced its change.