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State won’t reveal which families got $500 in stimulus money

By   /   August 9, 2010  /   8 Comments

The Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services recently announced awarding $500 to each of 10,847 families to help cover costs for the upcoming school year.

Funding was provided by stimulus funds as part of the federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program.

The SRS press release explained that no one needed to apply for the free federal money.  According to the SRS “eligibility for the program is determined by household size, income and resources … eligible families will be notified by mail.”

But if you are poor and did not receive such a payment, there is no mechanism to apply for this government assistance.  The government decided unilaterally who received these payments, and no legislative body in Kansas reviewed this program or authorized these payments.

The SRS cited both Kansas and Federal statutes for denying an open records request for the list of recipients to study:

Personal information relating to the recipients is confidential and privileged pursuant to KSA 39-709b and the federal Privacy Act, 5 USC 552a.

SRS Director of Communications Steve Mock answered our questions:

Q:  Why did SRS make the decision about who was eligible for this payment instead of publishing the requirements and asking the public to apply?

A: Families enrolled in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program have incomes under 26.4 percent of the federal poverty level – less than $5,000 a year for a family of three – and very few assets.  To receive TANF assistance, families must have at least one child under age 18 in the home and must work towards employment.  There is a 60 month lifetime limit on TANF assistance.

Those families enrolled in TANF in June 2010 were identified as recipients of a one-time back-to-school payment because they were known to be very poor and known to qualify for public assistance, minimizing outreach and enrollment overhead.  Families with school-age children face a number of back-to-school costs, including school supplies, clothes and school fees.  SRS chose to direct the TANF Emergency funds to families with children between 3 and 17 to help children enter school ready to learn and succeed in the classroom.

Q:  What is the estimate of the number of jobs created or saved from this stimulus activity?

A: We have not estimated the number of jobs created or saved through the one-time payment.

Should a government agency unilaterally decide who gets free money through one-time payments during an election year?

Should the list of those receiving one-time government payments be available for public scrutiny?


Update (Aug 10). In response to a follow-up request for more information on the location of the 10,847 families, SRS provided the following breakdown by county:

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// Kansas Families Receiving the $500 One-Time, School Supplies TAF Benefit


Editor’s Note:  We did not plan to publish the list of the poor receiving the TANF funds, but did intend to talk to some of the recipients to find out how they benefited from the assistance.

We intended to look for waste, fraud and abuse in the awarding of the federal funds unilaterally by the State of Kansas, but this is not possible without information about the recipients.


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Contact: Earl F Glynn, earl@kansaswatchdog.org, KansasWatchdog.org

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Earl Glynn

  • http://twitter.com/nicki2377 Nicki

    I’m wondering if you realize how awful this article makes you sound?

    Being poor is not a crime. Being extremely poor is not a crime. This is $5.4 million in federal dollars that went to very needy Kansas families who then put it back into our economy/school systems. How exactly is that bad?

    These families have their entire financial situation gone over in order to qualify for TANF – why would you then make them apply separately for an associated program? Causing more overhead (um…waste!), more work for staff and the potential that families would be missed/not apply?

    And be honest about your motives for wanting the list. You wanted to find that one or two people that wasted the money on something besides school supplies so that you could make the case to your readers that the whole program is fraught with fraud and abuse. You can argue the validity/necessity of the one-time program…but leave these families alone.

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  • Karen

    $500 ??? Are you kidding me? Kansas has gone wild. No accountability, as promised. A bonus for being out of work in a state with a very low unemployment rate? Are all people US citizens (the parent not the child)?

    More money than we spend on school supplies. I guess work doesn’t pay after all.

  • http://twitter.com/nicki2377 Nicki

    Karen – you do realize this is Federal money, right? Yes, 6.5% is lower than many states, but most of the jobs that are out there don’t exactly make ends meet – if you can get them at all. And this particular program is geared toward people that make 26% of the poverty level – could you live on that? Could you clothe your kids? Enroll your kids in school on that? The fact that you harbor such ill will against the children of the poor is really sad.

    Kansas TANF Eligiblity Requirements

    - You must be a US Citizen.

    - Children must be citizens or have eligible alien status.

    - You must have a social security number.

    - Your family must earn less than a certain amount of money per month

    - Children must be 18 years old or younger. If you are older than 18, you must be a full time student with an expected graduation date before the age of 20. – Families must have a child under 18 living in the home.

    - Pregnant women in their last 3 months of pregnancy.

  • Earl F Glynn

    Nicki:

    I grew up in poverty, so why would I be critical of poor people? I didn’t go to work before school at 4:30 AM in 7th grade because I didn’t like sleep.

    There are examples that bring into question the judgment being used at SRS:

    State Sen. Julia Lynn grills SRS Secretary about contracting irregularities: “It just smells bad” [Dec 6, 2009]

    http://kansas.watchdog.org/2037/state-sen-julia-lynn-grills-srs-secretary/

    It is not a crime to be poor, but our system is taking kids from homes of the poor when the poor families don’t have money to fight for their kids in district court — that should be a crime:

    Compelling stories from parents and grandparents about problems with placement and removal of children [Dec 4, 2009]

    http://kansas.watchdog.org/2010/compelling-stories-about-problems-with-placement-and-removal-of-children/

    Warrant out for mom who testified at hearing about losing custody of children [Feb 28, 2010]

    http://kansas.watchdog.org/2890/warrant-out-for-mom-who-testified-at-hearing-about-losing-custody-of-children/

    Watch the 2nd video in that last article. The grandfather said “We don’t have money.” He wanted to fight for his grandkids but was powerless without money. There are problems with SRS and our courts that need to be fixed to help the poor keep their kids.

    There are other expenditures by SRS that we’ve been investigating and feel might be wasteful.

    So, a system that doesn’t help the poor keep their kids should be trusted to give away free money without transparency? Why do some in extreme poverty get help and others do not? If you’re poor and the government doesn’t know about you, why is their no mechanism to file for the free $500? Why do families with one child get the same $500 amount as those with more children? How is the government being fair to all?

    Wasting money anywhere in government, even by the poor, hurts others that need help too, and cannot get the help.

    With a free money give-away, and no transparency, how do we know the money was spent the way it was intended? My parents didn’t teach me that I wasn’t accountable because I was poor kid.

    Reviewing the $500 stimulus give-away in Kansas wasn’t about embarrassing the poor (I suffered the embarrassment of being a poor child myself), but it is about keeping government accountable and fair to all.

    efg

  • JaneLovesJesus

    Is it the job of govt to play SantaClaus deciding who to take $5.4 million from & who to give it to? How many of those 10,000 will now feel entitled to an annual $500 present? It’s all slush funds and bribe money at tax payer expense. Govt will make the decisions and be accountable to no one. Who is knocking the poor? It is our out-of-control govt people have concerns with.

  • Roger Warner

    This program was abused, and was a horrible idea. There were no checks, or control on who go the money, and how it was spent. We have a career drug addict relative who got this money for 4 children, who don’t even live with her, and spent it all on drugs. Then my wife and I had to go spend real moeny to ensure the children had the basics to go to school.

    Before you get a government handout, you should have to go through drug testing, and there should be some control on how the money can be used. There was huge abuse in this program since there were no controls.