A bill under consideration in the Missouri House Children and Families Committee would make Missouri the most radical welfare state in the nation—even more radical than California, New York, and Massachusetts.
SB 82 would make households with incomes up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level eligible for food stamps. While the bill’s aim is to reduce welfare dependency and encourage work, it takes the wrong approach and will only end up trapping more Missourians in dependency.
SB 82 would make food stamps a middle-class welfare program
Currently, those with incomes up to 130 percent of the federal poverty level qualify for welfare. SB 82 would more than double that income limit, making even more higher-earning households—including those with substantial incomes, some in the six-figure range—eligible for welfare.
Not only could this result in trapping middle-class Missouri families in dependency, but it would also divert resources from households in greater need.
How? Currently, the base federal poverty level for a household of three is $24,860, and for a household of four, $30,000. SB 82 would make households with three times that income eligible for welfare. That means households of three with incomes up to $74,580 and to $90,000 for households of four. Households of four with incomes up to $90,000 would qualify for welfare programs in Missouri under SB 82.
And for a family of eight, it jumps to six figures, with an upper income limit of $151, 680.
By so dramatically raising the income limits for welfare eligibility in the state under SB 82, Missouri would be embarking upon a more radical welfare expansion than California, New York, and Washington, D.C. could even claim. A better—and proven—option to get people back to work and help raise incomes would be more robust work requirements for able-bodied adults across the state’s welfare programs.
SB 82 is driven by the “welfare cliff” myth
The bill operates on the “welfare cliff” misconception—that the biggest problem in Missouri’s welfare programs is able-bodied adults working just a few hours less for fear of losing their benefits. But this simply isn’t true. The biggest problem is able-bodied adults choosing not to work at all.
The bill attempts to cover those “close” to the eligibility threshold, but Missouri already has transitional benefits (benefits that phase down gradually as welfare enrollees grow their incomes) in food stamps. TANF beneficiaries receive a transitional employment benefit after they’ve become ineligible. Those in public housing have a percentage of their earnings disregarded for the first two years they’re employed and living in public housing.
Instead, SB 82 will add more people to welfare—all in the name of helping people leave welfare.
Missouri must reject SB 82
Missouri is playing with fire by entertaining one of the worst welfare bills in the country. SB 82 has the potential to trap thousands of middle-class Missourians in welfare, while also depriving the truly needy of valuable resources. Missouri legislators must swiftly and unequivocally reject SB 82 and its outrageous attempt to expand welfare in the state.