Republican officials in Kansas have been working overtime lately to bolster the state’s ruby-red reputation. On everything from economic policy to undermining an independent judiciary to cracking down on imaginary voter fraud, Kansas’ GOP-run state government has been a model of far-right governance lately.
But Arthur Delaney reported for the Huffington Post late yesterday that on one front, Kansas seems to realize it may have gone a little too far recently.
[A recently approved state law] capped ATM withdrawals with welfare debit cards at $25 per day – an unprecedented restriction. It also banned the cards from being used at a long list of establishments, including swimming pools, fortune tellers and cruise ships. Gov. Sam Brownback (R) signed the law in April.Now, prompted by concerns that the cash withdrawal limit went too far and would jeopardize the state’s compliance with federal rules, Kansas lawmakers are revisiting that provision. An amendment that cleared the Kansas State Legislature on Saturday would give the state’s Department for Children and Family Services leeway to loosen the limit or get rid of it altogether.
It doesn’t appear to be a done deal just yet, but undoing what’s been done would be a welcome development – not just because Kansas’ new policy may conflict with federal guidelines, but also because it’s needlessly cruel.
As the Washington Post’s Max Ehrenfreund recently explained, we’re talking about a policy that punishes the poor in unnecessarily punitive ways.
The legislature placed a daily cap of $25 on cash withdrawals beginning July 1, which will force beneficiaries to make more frequent trips to the ATM to withdraw money from the debit cards used to pay public assistance benefits. Since there’s a fee for every withdrawal, the limit means that some families will get substantially less money.It’s hard to overstate the significance of this action. Many households without enough money to maintain a minimum balance in a conventional checking account will pay their rent and their utility bills in cash. A single mother with two children seeking to withdraw just $200 in cash could incur $30 or more in fees, which is a big chunk of the roughly $400 such a family would receive under the program in Kansas.
A measure to reverse course was approved over the weekend; it’s not yet clear if Gov. Sam Brownback (R) will sign it.