FACT CHECK: Hanaway wrong about Missouri's rate of moving people from welfare to work

2 years 3 months 3 weeks ago Sunday, April 17 2016 Apr 17, 2016 Sunday, April 17, 2016 6:37:00 PM CDT April 17, 2016 in News
By: Andrew Kessel

COLUMBIA - At the March 17 Republican gubernatorial debate, former Speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives Catherine Hanaway made a strong statement about the effectiveness of welfare in Missouri.

"We're the worst state in the country at moving people from welfare to work," Hanaway said. 

Worst in the country is a serious indictment. We wanted to know where Hanaway found her information — and if Missouri really does rank dead last. We got in touch with Will Scharf, policy director of Hanaway for Governor, and he pointed us to a 2015 Welfare Report Card issued by the Heartland Institute.

The Heartland Institute is a conservative think tank. Its report evaluates and ranks states' policies under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, the assistance program for low-income families established when Congress passed a welfare-to-work reform act in 1996. The report assigns a letter grade based on the TANF policies of each state. It awards higher grades for states with strict work requirements, shorter lifetime eligibility limits, stiffer sanctions and other features.

Missouri received an F from the Heartland Institute, the lowest score in the nation. But at the debate, Hanaway didn't say we earned an F, or that our welfare policies are the worst in the country. She specifically claimed Missouri is the worst at moving people from welfare to work, and that's where things get complicated.

Why people leave TANF

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services tracks the reasons families stop receiving TANF benefits in each state. Employment, exceeding the time limit, receiving sanctions and voluntarily closing one's case are all possible options. In Missouri, 81 percent of families stopped receiving benefits due to employment in 2014, the most recent data. That's far from the worst welfare-to-work rate in the country — it's the highest. By comparison, the national percentage for leaving TANF for employment is just 15.8 percent.

But there's a twist: The secret to Missouri's success might be the same reasons Heartland Institute gave the Show-Me state a failing grade. We spoke to Liz Schott, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, who told us that Missouri's longer lifetime limit and lighter sanctions meant fewer cases were closed for reasons other than employment.

The HHS data blurs what's actually going on in another way. Schott explained that families will often voluntarily end their benefits when a family member gets a job. In this case, other states might have higher rates of cases closing due to employment, but it isn't getting recorded that way.

What happens to families after they leave TANF is also rarely tracked. There is no standard federal measure, and it isn't common at the state level either. That makes it tough to evaluate the success of any given state at moving people from welfare to work and keeping them there.

Missouri's new law

When the Heartland report came out in March 2015, it caught the attention of Missouri Republicans. Inspired by the report, Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, sponsored the Strengthening Missouri Families Act, which called for strict restrictions on TANF benefits and passed after an override of Gov. Jay Nixon's veto.

The law, which took effect in January, cuts the lifetime limit on benefits from five years to 3 1/2, institutes sanctions that cut benefits in half if a recipient fails to complete required training and employment-seeking activities, and cuts them off completely if the requirements aren't met in ten weeks.

Our Ruling

Catherine Hanaway called Missouri the worst state in the country at moving people from welfare to work

Her source was a report by the conservative Heartland Institute. But that report assigned grades based on a state's TANF policies, not the percentage of people leaving TANF for employment. By that measure, according to federal statistics, Missouri isn't the worst state, it's the best in the country.

The numbers may be a bit imprecise, but they more than show Missouri far from last place. We rate Hanaway's statement false.

 

Sources:

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Missouri Legislature enacts limit on welfare benefits over Nixon's veto” May 5, 2015

St. Louis Public Radio, “Cuts in store for many of Missouri’s public assistance programs” June 23, 2015

The Heartland Institute, “2015 Welfare Reform Report Card” March 19, 2015

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Association for Children and Families, “Characteristics and Financial Circumstances of TANF Recipients” 2014

The Missouri Times, “TANF and SNAP reform on the way to approval by General Assembly” March 19, 2015

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “Policy Basics: An Introduction to TANF” June 15, 2015

Email interview with Liz Schott, April 6, 2016

Missouri House of Representatives “Strengthening Missouri Families Act”

Missouri Department of Social Services “Temporary Assistance”

 

More News

Grid
List
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) - A judge has ruled that a proposed 10-cent gas tax increase can go on Missouri's Nov.... More >>
8 minutes ago Wednesday, August 15 2018 Aug 15, 2018 Wednesday, August 15, 2018 9:19:00 AM CDT August 15, 2018 in News
CALLAWAY COUNTY - One westbound lane of I-70 east of Kingdom City is back open following a crash Wednesday morning.... More >>
1 hour ago Wednesday, August 15 2018 Aug 15, 2018 Wednesday, August 15, 2018 8:09:00 AM CDT August 15, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - Two medical marijuana November ballot measures are going to court ahead of the election, less than three months... More >>
2 hours ago Wednesday, August 15 2018 Aug 15, 2018 Wednesday, August 15, 2018 7:13:00 AM CDT August 15, 2018 in News
(CNN) -- A new grand jury report says that internal documents from six Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania show that more... More >>
3 hours ago Wednesday, August 15 2018 Aug 15, 2018 Wednesday, August 15, 2018 6:20:00 AM CDT August 15, 2018 in News
BEVIER, Mo. (AP) — A suspect is hospitalized after being shot by a sheriff's deputy in north-central Missouri. Macon... More >>
3 hours ago Wednesday, August 15 2018 Aug 15, 2018 Wednesday, August 15, 2018 6:11:00 AM CDT August 15, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - The Boone County Sheriff's Department is investigating a shots fired case in northeast Columbia. Around 2 a.m.... More >>
4 hours ago Wednesday, August 15 2018 Aug 15, 2018 Wednesday, August 15, 2018 4:50:00 AM CDT August 15, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - Assistant Police Chief John Gordon says the police department will be beefing up patrols in downtown Columbia this... More >>
9 hours ago Tuesday, August 14 2018 Aug 14, 2018 Tuesday, August 14, 2018 11:30:00 PM CDT August 14, 2018 in News
KANSAS CITY - Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer announced he is conceding the race for the Republican nomination for the governorship.... More >>
13 hours ago Tuesday, August 14 2018 Aug 14, 2018 Tuesday, August 14, 2018 8:18:00 PM CDT August 14, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - MU researchers say they've hit a "milestone" in developing a cancer treatment that could be more effective than... More >>
14 hours ago Tuesday, August 14 2018 Aug 14, 2018 Tuesday, August 14, 2018 6:57:00 PM CDT August 14, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Voters will now be able to decide whether or not they approve of a gas tax increase,... More >>
14 hours ago Tuesday, August 14 2018 Aug 14, 2018 Tuesday, August 14, 2018 6:37:00 PM CDT August 14, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - A judge ruled against Traveler Indemnity Company in a lawsuit stemming from Ryan Ferguson's wrongful prosecution and conviction... More >>
16 hours ago Tuesday, August 14 2018 Aug 14, 2018 Tuesday, August 14, 2018 5:24:00 PM CDT August 14, 2018 in News
(CNN) -- The Indiana woman who lost nine members of her family in a duck boat sinking last month in... More >>
16 hours ago Tuesday, August 14 2018 Aug 14, 2018 Tuesday, August 14, 2018 4:56:00 PM CDT August 14, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - A new state law on temporary license permits is just two weeks away from being enforced. The... More >>
17 hours ago Tuesday, August 14 2018 Aug 14, 2018 Tuesday, August 14, 2018 4:02:00 PM CDT August 14, 2018 in News
VERSAILLES - The Morgan County Sheriff's Office said a man died from a gunshot wound on Sunday, and Versailles police... More >>
19 hours ago Tuesday, August 14 2018 Aug 14, 2018 Tuesday, August 14, 2018 1:45:00 PM CDT August 14, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - With school starting today for Columbia Public Schools students, some construction projects are finished while others are just... More >>
19 hours ago Tuesday, August 14 2018 Aug 14, 2018 Tuesday, August 14, 2018 1:44:00 PM CDT August 14, 2018 in News
Jefferson City - One person was injured in a car crash on the Missouri River Bridge on Tuesday. The... More >>
21 hours ago Tuesday, August 14 2018 Aug 14, 2018 Tuesday, August 14, 2018 11:48:00 AM CDT August 14, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - An Osage County judge ruled in favor of Missouri Secretary of State Jay Aschroft on Tuesday in... More >>
21 hours ago Tuesday, August 14 2018 Aug 14, 2018 Tuesday, August 14, 2018 11:34:43 AM CDT August 14, 2018 in News
BEVIER - The Missouri State Highway Patrol is investigating a deputy-involved shooting in Macon County. The man whom a... More >>
22 hours ago Tuesday, August 14 2018 Aug 14, 2018 Tuesday, August 14, 2018 10:32:00 AM CDT August 14, 2018 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 73°
10am 74°
11am 76°
12pm 77°
1pm 78°