You may have heard some myths about public assistance

Myths and misconceptions about public assistance in Kansas and what living in poverty actually means.

Public assistance includes government benefits provided to individuals and families living at or near the federal poverty level.


Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

SNAP is a federally funded assistance program providing low-income individuals and households with access to healthy foods and a nutritionally adequate diet.


Temporary Assistance to Needy Families

TANF is a federally funded program that provides extremely low-income families with limited cash assistance.[ii]



Do people sell their benefits for drugs ­– I’ve heard many assistance recipients are drug users?

  • In 2014, Kansas spent $40,000 drug testing 2,783 TANF applicants. Only 11 applicants tested positive for drug use. The maximum assistance amount each of those individuals would have been receiving in cash assistance would have been $267 per month, meaning this investigation only saved the state $35,244. The state lost money on these investigations.[iii]


Do people spend their SNAP/TANF assistance on ‘luxury’ items?

  • Recipients are not able to use their SNAP funds on alcohol, tobacco, non-food items, vitamins, or prepared foods.[iv]
  • TANF recipients are not able to use funds on a large variety of things. [v]


Are people receiving assistance are lazy?

  • 68% of food insecure households in Kansas have one or more full-time workers.[vi]
  • SNAP participants who are not working are only exempt from work requirements due either to age, disability, or other specific reasons.[vii]
  • Able-bodied adults without dependents, those age 18-49, must meet work requirements to qualify for SNAP, working at least 80 hours per month and, if he or she does not meet the work requirements, the individual is only eligible for up to 3 months of assistance.[viii]


Do public assistance programs provide enough money for people to live on?

  • The average combined SNAP and TANF benefit per individual was $112 per month, or $247 per household in Kansas in 2014.[ix]
  • Welfare recipients still live at or below the federal poverty level.[x]
    • In July 2015, every state’s TANF benefits for a family of 3 with no other cash income was below 50% of the federal poverty level (FPL), with most states being below 30% – that’s a yearly income of $6,027.[xi]
    • In Kansas, the maximum TANF benefits a person can receive puts him or her at 20-30% FPL.[xii]
  • 83% of families receiving TANF in Kansas consistently receive SNAP benefits and, with these benefits combined, still live at 55% FPL. In a family of 3, that is $10,045 per year.[xiii]


Are tax dollars are going to waste?

  • Every $1 provided by SNAP generates $1.70 of economic activity in Kansas.[xiv]
  • SNAP benefits contributed about $374 million into the Kansas economy in 2015.[xv]


I’ve heard the number of public assistance recipients in Kansas is decreasing because fewer Kansans are living in poverty – is that true?

  • TANF enrollment has decreased by more than 23,000 individuals[xvi], mostly children, since Governor Brownback took office in 2011, yet the poverty rate has continued to rise in Kansas, and more and more children are receiving free and reduced price meals in the state. This indicates that while TANF enrollment is decreasing, Kansas families are still struggling.[xvii]
  • TANF enrollment fell by 54% between 2011 and 2014 and the number of low-income parents – mostly single mothers – dropped by 27%, but more than 50% of children qualify for free or subsidized meals, meaning they live in a household with an income below 130% FPL or between 131-185% for reduced price meals.[xviii]


This document was created by advocates of Kansas Appleseed It provides data to counter the misconceptions you may hear about public assistance in Kansas.


[i] USDA Food and Nutrition Services, 6/1/2016.

[ii] Family Equality Council, 2016.


[iv] Id.


[vi] Kansas Health Institute, 11,2015.

[vii] USDA Food and Nutrition Service, 5/23/2016.

[viii] Id.

[ix] USDA Food and Nutrition Service, 2016.


[xi] Id.

[xii] Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 4/25/16. and

[xiii] Id.

[xiv] Id. at

[xv] Id.

[xvi] Kansas Department for Children and Families, September 2015.

[xvii] Kansas Health Institute, November 2014.

[xviii] Id.