“Mean-spirited,” “un-Christian,” “hateful.” These are just some of the words used to describe supporters of the Kansas HOPE Act, the most comprehensive welfare reform in the country signed into law by Gov. Sam Brownback.
Angry – and inaccurate – comments flooded airwaves, blogs, news comments sections and social media. The truth is that this bill allows individuals receiving welfare to use their benefit cards on a wide range of necessities and withdraw funds for money orders to pay bills. These changes will help make welfare temporary in nature and help Kansans move from government assistance to the dignity of work.
My Grandpa O’Donnell never went to high school and only has an eighth-grade education. He saw what happened to his mother when she went on welfare after his father died, and he knew it was not what he wanted for himself or his family. My grandpa worked hard and built a great life, and he still teaches me the value of hard work and perseverance. Because of his dedication, he has a son with a Ph.D. and a grandson serving as a state senator.
Kansans want to see this state thrive and our neighbors achieve great things, namely to be able to support themselves and their families without taxpayer-funded dependency. The HOPE Act will help Kansans develop skills to find – and keep – a well-paying job.
This bill is about providing temporary resources to those in need. Rather than keeping Kansans locked in a cycle of poverty with a small government check, we want to give them the tools to build a better life for themselves and their families including degree completion and job-training programs.
A recent study shows that most Kansans support the intent of this bill – to make sure resources are there for needy families and to encourage independence rather than dependence. The study, conducted by the Remington Research Group, shows that 64 percent of Kansans support the HOPE Act. A majority, 66 percent, also agreed that limiting benefits from 48 to 36 months encourages self-reliance. These are individuals who understand that incentivizing dependency doesn’t help anyone – not the family living in poverty and not the taxpayer footing the bill.
The impetus of this bill was to move people from poverty to self-reliance, from government assistance to the workforce. Is the answer to allow poverty to persist by enabling dependency, or is it time to do something that inspires hope? It’s clear the majority of Kansans agree the answer can be found in the dignity of work and self-reliance.
Michael O’Donnell is a Republican state senator from Wichita.