Kansas Welfare Bill Would Limit ATM Withdrawals to $25 a Day

Both houses of the Kansas legislature have passed legislation that, in addition to preventing welfare recipients from spending funds at places like movie theaters and nail salons, would limit ATM withdrawals to $25 each day.

The controversial bill, should Kansas Gov.Sam Brownback sign it into law, would include a number of restrictions on how funds from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program may be used.

Funds may not be used on body piercings, massages, spas, tobacco, lingerie, arcades, cruise ships, visits to psychics, theme parks or racetracks.

State Sen. Michael O’Donnell told the Topeka Capital-Journal it’s a way to make recipients of the program spend “more responsibly.”

“We’re trying to make sure those benefits are used the way they were intended,” said O’Donnell, vice chairman of the state senate’s standing committee on public health and welfare. “This is about prosperity. This is about having a great life.”

But perhaps the most controversial element of the bill prevents people from withdrawing more than $25 per day from their TANF card to prevent using the funds inappropriately.

Elizabeth Lower-Basch, director of income and work supports at the Center for Law and Social Policy, told The Guardian that in most cases it would restrict card-holders from withdrawing more than $20 per day because most ATMs don’t dispense $5 bills. And other than on the first withdrawal of the month, users are subject to withdrawal fees each time they use the ATM.

“Broadly, this is about taking pot shots against the poor,” she said. “We have not seen another state do this. I think that’s really impractical; I don’t know how people are going to pay their rent.”

Brownback’s spokeswoman said the governor intends to review the legislation carefully before signing it into law.

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