Tattoos. Concert tickets. Spas. Fortune tellers.
These are things that poor people who receive assistance from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program cannot actually to afford to buy, but lawmakers in Kansas believe the threat is real enough to pass legislation to address it.
It's already impossible to use a benefit card to purchase something like concert tickets, but lawmakers are concerned that recipients may withdraw their benefits as cash and use it to have their fortune read to them.
There's no way to monitor exactly what people spend paper cash on, so the new legislation would limit cash withdrawals to $25 per day.
How does the bill's sponsor, Michael O'Donnell (R), justify his legislation?
He said there is "absolutely evidence" that residents have used TANF cash to pay for psychics, tattoos and other unauthorized purchases, though he acknowledged that it amounted to a "very, very small amount."
"We're really trying to use this as a tool to make sure people get back into workforce," said O'Donnell. He said the program is showing results, noting that more than 6,000 residents stopped taking TANF benefits last year.
I'm sure there is no other explanation for the drop in the number of residents receiving benefits. It's possible they no longer qualified for benefits or they simply found adequate employment, but this legislation that hasn't been signed into law yet is clearly responsible. It's science.
It's important to remember that TANF benefits top out at around $500 per month for a family of four. Even if you were the biggest fraudster who ever defrauded a state, I'm not sure you could afford to buy concert tickets for a family of four with that amount of money. Even if you could, there wouldn't be anything left for spa treatments or, you know, food and water.
The amount of assistance available to families in Kansas apparently hasn't been increased since 1996. That seems like a bigger concern to me than 1 or 2 cases of fraud out of thousands.
Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Kansas will plug the projected $1 billion hole in the state budget if a handful of jackasses are forced to spend two weeks withdrawing the amount of cash they would need to purchase concert tickets.