UKCPR Director James Ziliak testified July 8 before an interim task force on public assistance reform in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The bipartisan and bicameral task force was established to study the potential effects of new rules for receipt of public assistance, including work requirements, drug testing of applicants, and inclusion of photo IDs for use of EBT cards used in benefits access.
Ziliak’s testimony focused on evidence about the short- and long-term impact of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Medicaid, and how changes such as those being explored by the task force could affect participation and well-being.
Highlights of Ziliak’s presentation to the task force include the following points:
- SNAP is accepted by about 4,500 retailers in Kentucky and is estimated to have a $1.275 billion economic impact for Kentucky businesses in FY2018. The program has also been found to reduce food insecurity, reduce negative effects of economic recessions, have a positive impact on long-term health for children, and reduce premature mortality.
- Medicaid impacts include reductions in infant mortality, increase in access to preventative care, reduced hospitalizations, reductions in onset of adult disability, and an increase of education and work attainment for people covered during childhood. The Medicaid expansions adopted by over 30 states after the Affordable Care Act led to increased insurance coverage and access. The introduction of work requirements for Medicaid in Arkansas led to reductions in insurance coverage and no increase in employment or community engagement.
- Drug testing as a requirement for public assistance has not been researched extensively and evidence of impacts is scarce. Available research does suggest that illicit drug use is no more prevalent among those receiving public assistance than the rest of the population.
- The use of photo IDs with EBT cards to reduce fraud does not have any supporting evidence and is administratively costly. In terms of SNAP fraud, the current national estimate is that only about 1% of total benefits are affected, which is a reduction of 2/3rds since the introduction of EBT.
- Work requirements, drug testing, and photo ID are likely to lead to reductions in participation in SNAP and Medicaid, but with no expectation that employment or incomes will increase. Evidence suggests that food security, health care access and coverage, and financial security will all worsen with less access to these public assistance programs.