Safety net programs like Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) fill gaps in access to food, financial support and medical care across the commonwealth; and recently, these critical programs have been in the public conversation. Members of the Public Assistance Reform Task Force have concluded their work and recommended further exploration of adjustments to these programs. At the same time, Governor-elect Beshear is building an administration that will have the opportunity to make broad changes to programs that have supported hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians in making ends meet. As each of these bodies proceed, we, the undersigned, urge Kentucky’s leaders to recognize the importance of these programs in the lives of their constituents throughout the commonwealth.
Kentuckians look out for each other when we hit a hard patch and struggle to make ends meet, and our safety net should reflect that. We all need a hand sometimes. White, Black or Brown; urban or rural; abled or disabled; unemployed or underpaid – we all need access to health care, housing, groceries and financial security. Medicaid, SNAP and TANF are critical to helping individuals, families and communities weather hard times.
Solid research shows programs like SNAP, Medicaid and TANF improve health and the ability of people to more fully contribute to our commonwealth. These programs strengthen struggling economies when they most need it by bringing in federal dollars that circulate through local communities. We believe improvements to Kentucky’s safety net programs should be guided by these shared principles:
- Utilize a “welcome mat” approach, making public assistance as accessible as possible for Kentuckians, and meeting them with respect, dignity and without stigma.
- Integrate the eligibility, application and enrollment of programs so that no one unknowingly leaves vital assistance on the table.
- Give kids a strong start by ensuring they and their families glean the full benefit of public support when they need it, including financial assistance that is flexible to meet a variety of needs.
- Prioritize racial, ethnic and geographic equity among Kentuckians who face historical and systemic barriers to meeting basic needs.
- Take down barriers to enrolling in and using public assistance in order to reduce administrative costs and the hassle people face while getting back on their feet.
- Support, not penalize, underpaid workers whose jobs do not pay a living wage, provide consistent hours, or offer access to benefits. This includes supporting workers in areas where jobs are scarce.
Many Kentuckians are simply a lost job, reduced work hours, a new baby, or an accident or illness away from qualifying from programs like Medicaid, SNAP or TANF. In fact, that’s why we call it a safety net – it catches people so they don’t fall through the cracks. Maintaining a strong safety net honors the dignity of every Kentuckian, and provides the foundation we need to thrive as a commonwealth.
We are ready and willing to work with members of the General Assembly and the Administration to that end.
AARP of Kentucky
ACLU of Kentucky
Advocacy Action Network
Align Wealth Management
Alliance for Pediatric Behavioral and Mental
Health of Kentucky
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kentuckiana
CASA of the River Region
Coalition for the Homeless
Community Coordinated Child Care (4-C)
Community Farm Alliance
Council on Developmental Disabilities
DOVES of Gateway
Family and Children’s Place
Family Circle Inc.
Family Health Centers, Inc.
Family Promise of Northern Kentucky, Inc.
Family Scholar House
Gateway Homeless Coalition, Inc.
Healthy Reentry Coalition of Kentucky
Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky
Jefferson County Teachers Association
Jewish Family & Career Services
KCEOC Community Action Partnership
Kentucky Center for Economic Policy
Kentucky Chapter of the AAP
Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Kentucky Council of Churches
Kentucky Council on Problem Gambling, Inc., (KYCPG)
Kentucky Equal Justice Center
Kentucky Nurses Association
Kentucky Primary Care Association
Kentucky Psychological Association
Kentucky State AFL-CIO
Kentucky Voices for Health
Kentuckians for the Commonwealth
KIPDA – Area Agency on Aging and Independent Living
Matthew25 AIDS Services
Mental Health America of Kentucky
Mission Behind Bars and Beyond (MB3)
Mountain Comprehensive Care Center
National Association of Social Workers –
Northern KY Justice and Peace Committee
Park DuValle Community Health Center
Shawnee Christian Healthcare Center
The Arc of Kentucky
United Food and Commercial Workers Local 227
Wesley House Community Services
This letter was shared in early December, 2019, with Kentucky state legislators and the Beshear transition team.