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

9 months 6 days 23 hours ago April 17, 2016 Apr 17, 2016 Sunday, April 17 2016 Sunday, April 17, 2016 6:37:00 PM CDT 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
COLUMBIA - I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (and again and again). Sleep is incredibly important. It’s... More >>
1 hour ago January 23, 2017 Jan 23, 2017 Monday, January 23 2017 Monday, January 23, 2017 1:47:00 PM CST in News
AUDRAIN COUNTY - A Vandalia man was sentenced to seven years in jail after he encouraged a 13-year-old to have... More >>
1 hour ago January 23, 2017 Jan 23, 2017 Monday, January 23 2017 Monday, January 23, 2017 1:43:00 PM CST in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway released an audit on Shelbina municipal court in northeast Missouri that found... More >>
1 hour ago January 23, 2017 Jan 23, 2017 Monday, January 23 2017 Monday, January 23, 2017 1:13:00 PM CST in News
COLUMBIA - Economic Development Director Stacey Button is not looking for a new airport manager. Former Columbia Regional Airport... More >>
2 hours ago January 23, 2017 Jan 23, 2017 Monday, January 23 2017 Monday, January 23, 2017 12:32:00 PM CST in News
COLUMBIA - Columbia police are looking for a possible link between a shots-fired call and a shooting victim who showed... More >>
5 hours ago January 23, 2017 Jan 23, 2017 Monday, January 23 2017 Monday, January 23, 2017 9:35:00 AM CST in News
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say a decomposed body has been found near a bridge in a Kansas City... More >>
8 hours ago January 23, 2017 Jan 23, 2017 Monday, January 23 2017 Monday, January 23, 2017 6:30:00 AM CST in News
LA MONTE - The Pettis County Prosecuting Attorney's Office filed charges against three men after a home invasion Saturday night.... More >>
20 hours ago January 22, 2017 Jan 22, 2017 Sunday, January 22 2017 Sunday, January 22, 2017 6:47:00 PM CST in News
COLUMBIA - The MFA Oil Break Time shootout featured talented athletes from all around Missouri on Sunday. There were six... More >>
20 hours ago January 22, 2017 Jan 22, 2017 Sunday, January 22 2017 Sunday, January 22, 2017 6:45:00 PM CST in News
COLUMBIA - Less than 24 hours after a call for help identifying the driver in a hit-and-run, Columbia police have... More >>
22 hours ago January 22, 2017 Jan 22, 2017 Sunday, January 22 2017 Sunday, January 22, 2017 4:40:00 PM CST in News
KANSAS CITY (AP) — Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura, whose electric arm helped his team win the 2015 World Series title,... More >>
1 day ago January 22, 2017 Jan 22, 2017 Sunday, January 22 2017 Sunday, January 22, 2017 2:36:00 PM CST in News
COLUMBIA - Two people were arrested Friday in connection with a terroristic threat, according to an email from Columbia police.... More >>
1 day ago January 22, 2017 Jan 22, 2017 Sunday, January 22 2017 Sunday, January 22, 2017 2:08:00 PM CST in News
COLUMBIA - Columbia Police officers responded to shots fired early Sunday morning in Columbia, according to a news release. ... More >>
1 day ago January 22, 2017 Jan 22, 2017 Sunday, January 22 2017 Sunday, January 22, 2017 1:26:00 PM CST in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — St. Louis police say a 20-year-old man is charged in an attack on a 12-year-old girl... More >>
1 day ago January 22, 2017 Jan 22, 2017 Sunday, January 22 2017 Sunday, January 22, 2017 12:51:01 PM CST in News
JASPER (AP) — A southwestern Missouri man is taking recycling to the extreme by building a house made from everything... More >>
1 day ago January 22, 2017 Jan 22, 2017 Sunday, January 22 2017 Sunday, January 22, 2017 11:03:00 AM CST in News
COLUMBIA (AP) — A University of Missouri professor hopes his invention of a new mug that maintains the coffee's temperature... More >>
1 day ago January 22, 2017 Jan 22, 2017 Sunday, January 22 2017 Sunday, January 22, 2017 10:56:06 AM CST in News
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — Missouri's new governor, Eric Greitens, is pushing to give the state the country's toughest penalties for... More >>
1 day ago January 22, 2017 Jan 22, 2017 Sunday, January 22 2017 Sunday, January 22, 2017 9:28:00 AM CST in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Residents of Jefferson City will learn more about two measures on the April ballot when Jefferson City... More >>
1 day ago January 22, 2017 Jan 22, 2017 Sunday, January 22 2017 Sunday, January 22, 2017 8:55:00 AM CST in News
COLUMBIA - The Choral Arts Alliance of Missouri (CAAM) raised more than $1,500 Saturday night for the after-school program, Granny's... More >>
1 day ago January 21, 2017 Jan 21, 2017 Saturday, January 21 2017 Saturday, January 21, 2017 10:15:00 PM CST in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 38°
4pm 38°
5pm 37°
6pm 36°
7pm 39°

Select a station to view its upcoming schedule:

Coming Up Next

3:00p
Dr. Phil
4:00p
Jeopardy!
4:30p
Jeopardy!
3:00p
The Robert Irvine Show
4:00p
Cops Reloaded
4:30p
The Cleveland Show

Tonight's Schedule

7:00p
The Celebrity Apprentice
9:00p
Timeless
7:00p
Supergirl
8:00p
Jane the Virgin
9:00p
KOMU 8 News @ Nine on The CW
9:30p
Seinfeld