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Missouri bill would cut access to welfare benefits

Nearly 20,000 people would lose access to federal welfare benefits under legislation approved by the Missouri House Wednesday.

The bill passed the Missouri Senate last month, and differences between the two versions will have to be worked out before it would be sent to the governor.

The core of the bill reduces how long families can receive benefits through a federal program known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Currently, the lifetime limit on benefits is five years. The Senate reduced that to four years. The House cut it even further to two and a half years.

Both bills would kick families out of the program if parents didn’t get a job, look for work, participate in training or attend school.

Work requirements also would be reinstated for recipients of food stamps.

The House also added provisions that dedicated 2 percent of TANF funds to alternative to abortion services and awareness programs, as well as 2 percent for healthy marriage and responsible fatherhood promotion.

Of the roughly 73,000 Missourians receiving TANF benefits in February, two-thirds were children.

The Missouri income guidelines for benefit recipients haven’t been updated since 1993. A family of three, for example, can earn no more than $846 a month in salary to receive $292 a month in TANF benefits.

The average amount of monthly benefits is about $230 per family.

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