© 2022 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Fewer Low-Income Kansans Getting Employment Help From State

The number of low-income Johnson County parents receiving employment preparation help from the state of Kansas has dropped more than 50 percent in the past three years.

Roughly 319 adults enrolled in the federal Temporary Assistance For Needy Families program received employment preparation services each month from the state between July 2013 and June 2014, down from 750 in 2011.

United Community Services of Johnson County Executive Director Karen Wulfkuhle says when her agency looked at how the TANF block grant was being spent in Kansas, she was surprised by how little went toward helping people find jobs.

In Johnson County, TANF provided $274,939 in employment preparation services in fiscal year 2014 – less than one half of one percent of all expenditures.

“If employment is the end game for TANF, then why are fewer people being served? Why is the amount invested in the employment services component of TANF such a small portion of the total TANF budget?” Wulfkuhle says.

Wulfkuhle says it’s of particular concern as Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration tightens the eligibility rules for TANF and touts employment as the path forward for low-income Kansans.

“If this current administration believes that the employment component is the most important aspect of TANF – which we would agree with – then it is a question of why more resources aren’t being invested there,” Wulfkuhle says.

Theresa Freed with the Kansas Department of Children and Families says the number of adults receiving employment services has decreased proportionally with overall TANF enrollment.

In 2014, the average monthly TANF caseload was roughly 7,000. Compare that to 2011, when it was 14,000.

The state announced last week it would provide a six-month "grace period" for families who've been on TANF for more than 36 months and will lose their cash assistance benefits due to legislation that goes into effect July 1.

KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and powerful storytelling.
Your donation helps make non-profit journalism available for everyone.