Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon stated the obvious on Thursday when he announced he had vetoed a punitive bill that limits welfare benefits.
“We do not strengthen families by hurting children,” Nixon said.
Members of the General Assembly failed to grasp that reality when they passed Senate Bill 24 by a margin large enough to override Nixon’s veto. The task ahead is to change hearts and minds, and then stop the wrongheaded legislation from taking effect.
Missouri already is not generous with welfare benefits. A family of three receives $292 a month, and federal law sets a lifetime limit of 60 months on a parent’s ability to qualify for aid.
The legislature’s bill reduces the lifetime limit to 45 months. Because most recipients require assistance for two years or less, the new restriction would affect parents in the most difficult situations — those with disabilities, for example, or long-term care-taking responsibilities. The legislature’s new limits would cut off benefits to 3,155 families, including an estimated 6,310 children, starting next January.
Nixon announced his veto during a visit to Operation Breakthrough, a child care center and social services agency for many of Kansas City’s poorest families. He pointed out that the number of people receiving welfare in Missouri is declining as the economy improves.
“Now is the time to build on that progress, not undermine it by hurting kids,” he said.
Unlike current policy, which takes away only a parents’ share of benefits if work requirements aren’t met, Senate Bill 24 cuts off aid to the entire family.
“The legislature should not be about the task of making it harder for the most challenged of kids economically to move forward,” the governor said.
Very true. Lawmakers should be spending their time on ways to help these families make progress. Expanding Medicaid eligibility and funding early childhood education are two measures that come to mind.
Expecting struggling families to do better with less assistance and more demands is “mean-spirited,” Nixon said.
Exactly. Mean-spirited, unnecessary and wrong.