Public Editor

Longer letter from Kansas official

Today’s Letters column

in the Opinion section has a submission from Phyllis Gilmore, secretary of the Kansas Department for Children and Families, taking exception to the interpretation of some figures in

a column by The Star’s Mary Sanchez

last week.

There is also a correction in today’s paper about one number: It originally said new regulations require mothers to work 30 hours of work to be eligible for child-care assistance, increased from 20. That figure came from the Kansas Governor’s Budget Report, (

which is still online with the error

). However, the Legislature changed it to 28 hours before passing it. The version online has been fixed.

Here I am publishing the full version of Ms. Gilmore’s letter, which was too long for consideration as submitted on the Letters page.

We know that full-time work is the best way to escape poverty. Although we realize families’ situations are not constant and there are times when assistance is needed, the Kansas Department for Children and Families’ goal is to help people find work that allows them to provide for their families without welfare dependency. In the recent Kansas City Star column, it was stated that reforms unfairly targeted mothers and their infants. The column also incorrectly stated that in order to receive child care assistance, the parent is now required to work 30 hours. Required work hours have increased by only eight hours.
The column also criticized that in order to receive cash assistance, new mothers must return to work after two months instead of the earlier mandated six months. Although most moms would love to stay home with their children and get paid for it, that’s not the reality for the vast majority of women. Employers may offer maternity leave, but it is generally for no more than 12 weeks and is often not paid or is paid at a portion of the woman’s actual wages. Many moms work full-time jobs outside of the home to support their families. We are asking parents who receive day care assistance to work much less. Additionally, the income requirement for child care far surpasses the poverty level. This means someone who makes more than $30,000 a year at a good job can still qualify for assistance. Although day care is a substantial expense, it is affordable, especially with the assistance program. The column stated that 4,000 Kansas children have been “sliced from the rolls” of day care assistance. Since October 2011, thousands of families no longer either want or need this form of welfare. The additional job requirements and employment support have helped families obtain the income they need to move out of poverty. According to a recent report, we still rank 22nd in the country when it comes to benefit packages—more generous than all but one of our neighboring states. If you factor in most Kansas welfare programs, a person can “make” more on welfare than working a full-time minimum wage job. This isn’t fair to the families that go to work every day. They deserve to know, we’re doing all we can to level the playing field and reward hard work and responsibility. Phyllis Gilmore
Secretary, Kansas Department for Children and Families