Changes in Missouri welfare benefits affect low-income families

Changes in Missouri welfare benefits affect low-income families

Missouri’s social safety net is shrinking as new laws went into effect at the start of the year. The state now has one of the shortest periods in the nation for the unemployed to receive benefits and welfare payments will be coming to an end for some families.

More people could soon be sitting at the dining tables at local food pantries and homeless shelters. Changes in welfare benefits will shorten the amount of time Missouri residents can use the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program from 60 to 45 months.

“It’s definitely going to increase the request volume, it will also probably increase the amount of need because of course they’ll be getting less,” says Georgia Jones with Souls Harbor.

The new Strengthening Missouri Families Act also requires that people have a job to receive both the benefits and food stamps. Nearly 3,000 families in Missouri lost their benefits on the first of the year and area food pantries and homeless shelters agree that this will increase the need for their services and stretch their resources thin.

“What we got around Christmas needs to go through the first quarter of the year. Well this is going to thin it out and it’s going to be much more difficult to cope with that,” says Jones.

But advocates for low income families say there is a silver lining, the changes could motivate people to get back on their feet.

“To become reliant on something is a bad thing, you have to always been looking to what you can do to resolve the situation on your own and i think this is going to require people to do that,” says John Joines with the Economic Security Corporation of Southwest Area.

And that philosophy goes hand in hand with the requirements for those who stay at Souls Harbor.

“We’re a helping hand, not a handout and it’s not our intent to raise your family. It’s our intent to bolster your family while you’re doing something for yourself,” says Jones.

The changes are expected to save the state $21 million and the money saved will be put back into other services for low-income families like the head start program.