HB 719/SB 82 are radical and wrong for Missouri

Missouri is known for its hardworking communities. But if HB 719/SB 82 become law, Missouri will become the most radical welfare state in the country.

Both HB 719 and SB 82 propose an outrageous expansion of welfare—more radical than even places like California, Illinois, Massachusetts, and New York—and it’s wrong for our state.

These bills would create a middle-class welfare expansion

HB 719/SB 82 would shamelessly trap more middle-class families in welfare by raising the upper income limit for food stamps significantly higher than any other state. Different versions of the bill propose upper income limits for welfare of between 225 and 300 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL). Currently, households with incomes up to 130 percent FPL qualify.

Here’s what it would look like even under the most modest version of the bill:

  • Households of three making up to $55,935 would qualify for food stamps.
  • Households of four making up to $67,500 would qualify for food stamps.

Not even California—a bastion of leftist ideas and welfare for all—has expanded income limits for food stamps to this degree. California only allows households with incomes up to 200 percent FPL to enroll in food stamps—and even neighboring Illinois only allows households with incomes up to 165 precent FPL. 

The bill would drag more households into dependency

A myth is driving this bill: the “welfare cliff” myth—that people avoid working more hours or making more money, so they don’t suddenly become ineligible for benefits. But Missouri already has generous transitional benefits to ease people back into the workforce, off welfare, and into self-sufficiency. HB 719/SB 82 would drag more middle-class families into dependency in the name of helping them leave welfare.

Welfare expansion is the last thing Missouri needs

Legislation that will dramatically expand welfare and bring more Missourians into dependency is the wrong call for our state—especially since the state continues to face a historic worker shortage. Instead of bringing more Missourians onto welfare rolls, the legislature should pursue true reforms that empower families to be self-sufficient, grow their incomes, and pursue opportunities for growth and stability—like work requirements.

Missouri should not aspire to be MORE radical than the likes of California, New York, and Illinois. The Missouri legislature must categorically reject HB 719, SB 82, and all welfare expansions like it.

Sarah Coffey, a Missouri native and author of this piece, is a visiting fellow at the Opportunity Solutions Project.