Senior Policy Analyst
The vast majority of Kansas families forced from the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance program due to harsh work sanctions starting in 2011 faced extreme economic hardship after leaving, our new report shows. Most parents worked after leaving TANF — just as most parents worked at some point in the year before leaving — but most didn’t find steady jobs that paid enough to make ends meet and keep their children out of poverty.
Our findings sharply contradict a Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA) report’s assertion that the new work sanctions sparked dramatic increases in families’ work rates and earnings. As our companion report explains, the FGA report — which claims that “Kansans thrive after leaving welfare” — is fundamentally flawed, presenting findings on employment and earnings that the facts don’t support while ignoring how these families continued to struggle after leaving TANF.
Our analysis of the same state data that FGA evaluated found:
Parents’ work was unsteady, however. In an average quarter in the year after leaving TANF, only about half were working, which suggests that the barriers to work that many families face — such as volatile work schedules — continue affecting their job prospects.
Our findings are consistent with other studies of TANF “leavers” that show that parents continue to struggle after they leave. As proponents of punitive eligibility policies wrongly tout TANF as a model for work requirements in other programs, including Medicaid, policymakers need to understand the actual impact of harsh work sanctions on families’ work, earnings, and well-being. Rigorous experiments and research show that work requirements won’t lift people out of poverty or eliminate their need for health coverage.