Phyllis Gilmore: Work requirement empowers

09/13/2013 12:00 AM

09/12/2013 5:32 PM

The Kansas Department for Children and Families works hard every day to help people in need. We do this through a wide range of services, including food assistance. It is important to us and Gov. Sam Brownback that no person goes hungry.

Kansas offers low-income residents the option of enrolling in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. In our continued effort to empower Kansans, we are now asking adults (ages 18 to 49) with no physical or mental issues that preclude work who do not have children and who are able to work to do so in order to receive continued food assistance.

Kansas is allowing a federal waiver to expire that earlier permitted able-bodied adults to receive assistance, even if they chose not to work. This waiver, in our current economy, encourages dependency.

“The need is genuine” (Sept. 8 Eagle Editorial) suggested that there are not enough jobs to go around. This is simply not the case.

Under the current administration, the economy has substantially improved, and so has the employment situation for countless Kansans. The unemployment rate in Kansas is 5.9 percent. According to the Kansas Department of Labor, in July there were nearly 45,000 online advertised job openings in Kansas. This is an increase of 1,400 openings in the past year. Of those job openings, five of the top 10 occupations earn an average hourly wage that is more than the average wage of all occupations in Kansas.

What if someone is not qualified to fill one of these positions? Able-bodied adults who are not working and who want to maintain their food-assistance benefits have the option of working at least 20 hours per week or participating in a federally approved job-training program through the Kansas Department of Commerce.

There are plenty of options available to these able-bodied adults. No Kansans will lose their food assistance as long as they are willing to find a job or train for a job. All taxpayers who go to work to provide for their families or themselves should understand that we are simply asking other adults to do the same thing. Continuing to provide food assistance without a work or job-training requirement enables rather than empowers.

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