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Thursday, May 26, 2022

Kansas Legislature overrides veto of bill tying food assistance to employment or training

TOPEKA — The House and Senate voted Thursday to override the governor’s veto of a bill requiring Kansans without dependents to work 30 hours per week or enroll in a job training program to qualify for federal food assistance.

Supporters of House Bill 2448 argued the requirement for people ages 18 to 49 without any disability is an attempt to encourage more Kansans to enter the workforce and create self-sufficiency. Opponents of the bill say it is meanspirited and a waste of taxpayer money.

Debate on the House floor centered on whether a work requirement or job training was an opportunity for Kansans.

Rep. Jason Probst, a Hutchinson Democrat, said the law will make life more difficult for impoverished people.

“There are many, many factors of what is going on with the Kansas workforce, but this is not going to solve that,” Probst said. “This is going to affect people for a variety of reasons, regardless of if they have other things going on in life.”

Rep. Susan Humphries, a Wichita Republican, agreed this would not solve the workforce issues but that this bill was about providing a hand-up instead of a handout.

“Let us show compassion by helping lift people up,” Humphries said. “To others who trumpet the cause of the poor, give them a chance of earned success through work.”

The House voted 86 to 36 to override Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto, and the Senate followed with a 29-11 vote. The legislation originally cleared the House 70 to 46 and the Senate on a 28 to 11 vote.

Kansans meeting the work hour minimum or enrolling in job training wouldn’t be blocked from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also called SNAP or food stamps.

Rep. Mark Samsel, a Wellsville Republican, said he flipped his vote because his concerns about the program’s effect on Kansans with mental or behavioral health needs were soothed.

“If you’re physically or mentally unfit, all they need to do is go see a doctor, get a signed note, and then they are exempt from the work requirements,” Samsel said. “My concerns about this have not only been satisfied, but I’m also actually excited that I think this program will do good things on campus.”

In her veto message, Kelly said Kansans are already struggling with “pandemic-induced inflation at the pumps and at the grocery store,” and need relief, not further stressors.

“With the rising costs of these necessities, we should be helping people afford the basics. This bill would unnecessarily burden nearly 30,000 hardworking Kansans, including people caring for their families and impacting those with children,” she said.

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