Sater pleased with override of welfare reform veto
State Senator: 'Missourians believe work is the answer to poverty'
A welfare reform bill crafted by State Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, will now become law, as the state legislature overrode a veto by Gov. Jay Nixon.
Sater's bill creates an immediate work requirement to receive welfare benefits, lowers the lifetime eligibility limit for the program and creates strict sanctions for recipients not complying with work requirements.
"I want to thank my colleagues in both the Senate and the House for voting to override the governor's veto," said Sater.
"In the 50 years since we declared the War on Poverty, we have spent trillions of dollars and created over a hundred different welfare programs, yet we are no closer to eliminating poverty now than we were in 1964," Sater said. "Lawmakers have too often thrown money at the problem and grown government. It is obvious that has not helped people become independent and self-sufficient."
According to Sater, less than 15 percent of Missouri welfare recipients are engaged in work activities, which is a broad definition that includes not only traditional work, but also job training and community service.
This places Missouri last in the nation in work participation for welfare, exemplified by the recent F grade in the 2015 Welfare Reform Report Card through The Heartland Institute, a national non-profit think tank that focuses on state legislation in all 50 states.
Gary MacDougal, policy advisor with the institute and lead author of the report card, said the move will bring Missouri better in line with other states who have passed similar laws and found success.
"It is great to see Missouri legislators understand that work is at the heart of a happy life and that encouraging work is something you do for someone, not to someone," he said. "Most of us are best motivated with both a carrot and a stick, and Missouri's new law will bring the state in line with the lessons learned by successful states in recent years."
Under Sater's bill, the savings from strengthening Missouri's work for welfare policies will be directed to helping families with child care, transportation and job training.
"The evidence overwhelmingly shows that Americans and Missourians believe work is the answer to poverty," Sater said. "Our current system unnecessarily traps people in welfare dependency and makes it difficult to get off welfare and back to work. [Senate Bill] 24 will turn this program around by providing the structure and tools our families need to become self-sufficient."
The federal government gives more than $200 million to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program per year, and Missouri ships another $120 million to $125 million per year. Sater's bill will affect that program, as well as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Originally, Sater proposed changing the lifetime limit to receive TANF benefits from five years to two years, but he said he amended the bill to say four years because the Senate Republicans had to compromise with the Democrats. The House amended the bill to 30 months, or 2.5 years.
"My original bill did not have any face-to-face conferences between the Department of Social Services and the TANF recipients," Sater said. "We changed it in the Senate to where you have to have orientation before you get TANF benefits, and then one after about six weeks, and then another one if you were failing and you were going to be sanctioned. The House cut out one of those face-to-face conferences. They thought two was enough."
The Senate voted 25-9 to override the governor's veto, while the House voted 113-42 to do the same. Most provisions of the bill go into effect on Jan. 1, 2016.