Kansas Really Wants Its Poor To Curb Those Cruises and ATM Withdrawals


Poor people in Kansas aren't acting poor enough.

Apparently they can't stop spending their welfare money on tattoos, cruise ships, porn, psychics and ATM withdrawals of more than $25. To end this so-called epidemic, the Republican-controlled legislature has passed a bill restricting how welfare recipients use their public assistance funds. 

That'll teach those poors! Maybe now Kansans who actually work for their money can finally... well, it's unclear what this changes for them, actually.

It's worth pointing out that almost nothing indicates Kansans spend welfare funds on any of the items restricted in House Bill 2258, which Gov. Sam Brownback is expected to sign into law this week, the Washington Post reports. These items include spas, movie tickets and entry fees for swimming pools — all well-known vices of the hungry and underemployed, of course.

State Sen. Michael O'Donnell, who introduced this bill, told CNN Money there is "absolutely evidence" that people spend public assistance money on psychics and tattoos, even if it is a "very, very small amount."

"I feel that 99% of the people who use TANF [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families] benefits do it within boundaries that are set up," he told CNN Money. "But there are bad actors."

John Hanna/AP

So why does the bill exist? Apparently these "bad actors" are bad enough to necessitate making life really hard for the remaining 99% of TANF recipients. Tarot card readings aren't the only things they'll have to give up: FiveThirtyEight reports that Kansas debit cards — including the electronic benefit cards used for public assistance — also charge a $1 fee for every ATM withdrawal.

Here's why that's a problem: State Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau told the Wichita Eagle that many of her constituents' rent payments have to be made in cash because they don't have bank accounts. If HB2258 becomes law and the withdrawal amount is limited to $25 a day, then a monthly rent cash payment of $600 would end up costing the renter $24 extra in ATM fees every month, in addition to forcing them to start withdrawing a minimum of 24 days before payment was due. 

The truth is, most Kansan welfare recipients aren't sitting around planning their next family cruise. They're thinking about bigger problems, like how to survive in America on an average of $400 a month, a TANF payment amount that has not increased since 1996, according to CNN Money.

So let's call this bill what it is: a transparent attempt to vilify welfare recipients and publicly shame them. We know you're poor, it says. But being poor means you also must be lazy, so here's an unnecessary law restricting how you spend your money, with little regard for the needs of families and individuals who receive aid.