Missouri Bill Requires Double-Checking of Welfare Eligibility

Published June 14, 2016

Missouri state legislators have approved a bill to require government agencies to double-check whether recipients of food stamps and other entitlements are eligible to receive those benefits.

Senate Bill 607, sponsored by state Rep. David Sater (R-Cassville), was approved by the Missouri Senate and delivered to Gov. Jay Nixon (D) in May. The House approved the bill in April.

If Nixon does not sign or veto the bill by July, SB 607 will become law and take effect in August.

Sater says SB 607 requires the state’s Department of Social Services to privatize its eligibility verification operations, instead of hiring more government employees to do the work.

“[The Department of Social Services] does a good job with the capability that they have,” Sater said. “They just don’t have the equipment, the computer software, and personnel to do the job that we’d like to do. So, they were all for having a third party do this. They want to do it.”

‘Tremendous’ Savings

Sater says saving money by enforcing and verifying eligibility will be good for the government’s budget and taxpayers’ pocketbooks.

“If we can save the state even $10 million a year, that would be tremendous,” Sater said.

Need to Work on Work

Rachel Sheffield, a policy analyst for The Heritage Foundation, says SB 607 is a good first step toward meaningful reform in Missouri, but more work is needed.

“I’ve been looking at state-by-state data,” Sheffield said. “I’m looking at [the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families] participation rates, data from 2013 from the Department of Human Services. It looks like Missouri actually has, of all the states, the highest percentage of work-capable TANF recipients who are not working or doing any type of work preparation or training.”

Sheffield says Missouri lawmakers should focus next on getting healthy food-stamp recipients back to work and off the welfare rolls.

“Based on the 2013 data, 77 percent of work-capable adult TANF recipients [in Missouri] are basically completely idle on the rolls,” Sheffield said. “So, one thing they could really focus on would be making or ensuring that more of their TANF caseload is doing more work. Work requirements would be an important move for them to make.”

Andrea Dillon ([email protected]) writes from Holly Springs, North Carolina.