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22 June 2011

Dempsey: Missouri Lawmakers Make Real Changes to TANF

To even a casual observer, it is clear that government spending in Washington, D.C. is out of control. Much of this is due to the expansion of programs that were meant to be a safety net, but now require ever increasing amounts of cash. While our state budget in Missouri must be balanced each year (unlike the budget of the federal government which is hopelessly "in the red"), the policies coming out of our nation's capitol directly impact us since many social programs are a joint state-federal effort.

Here in Missouri, we are serious about making sure that those who are on government assistance programs are really in need of them and are using the money wisely. To that end, this session we passed a bill that would require the Missouri Department of Social Services (DSS) to screen individuals getting welfare benefits if there is reasonable suspicion the recipient is using illegal drugs. If a recipient is found to be using drugs, that person will be ineligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits for three years. A recipient can, however, continue to receive benefits if he or she successfully completes a substance abuse treatment program and may receive benefits while in treatment.

Also, great care was taken by the Legislature to ensure that children in the household are still eligible for benefits - regardless of the actions of their parent or guardian.

Every morning, thousands of Missourians go to work to provide for their families. It is fundamentally unfair that someone would use the tax dollars paid by these citizens to support their own drug addictions.

House Bill 73, which makes the first real changes to TANF that we’ve seen since federal welfare reform happened in 1995, has now been sent to the governor for his signature.

I always appreciate hearing from you. If you have any questions about this or any other issues, please do not hesitate to contact my office.

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