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Missouri legislators scrutinize abundance of public assistance programs


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Public Assistance is reassessing the bevy of the state’s programs during the interim.

During a Wednesday meeting, the bipartisan committee discussed developing a system to rank the abundance of public assistance programs and determine if any could be combined or eliminated. 

Rep. Jeffrey Messenger, the Republican chairman, said the group will seek input from the state departments under which the public assistance programs are housed. The committee is requesting information regarding how many people are served, what the need is, and how much money is spent, in particular. 

“This committee here is going to be how we can take and formulate and organize how we want to go through these programs,” Messenger said. “There’s no way we can go through these programs in any given year. I think what we want to do is figure out how many of these programs we want to take on per year and go from there.” 

Messenger said he wanted to “weed out” programs that aren’t being used properly or are receiving federal funding in lieu of state of money. 

According to a list provided to those in attendance at the hearing, most of the programs fall under the umbrella of the Department of Social Services, Department of Health and Senior Services, or Department of Mental Health.

“While we’re looking at numbers that give us some quantifiable information about how much it costs to serve an individual, we’re also wanting to take in … the not so quantifiable information about how this program potentially impacts the future of the individual who is served or the individual’s family,” Sen. Jill Schupp said. “I don’t want anybody to get the impression that this is all about numbers and costs because it’s certainly people’s lives here and bigger than just numbers and cost.” 

Messenger agreed with Schupp, saying she made “a very good point.” 

“This committee is going to be about taking care of our constituents,” he said. “Cost is always a factor — don’t get me wrong — it always is. But we want to be very cost effective in how many people … and how we can treat as many — or handle as many — of those people in these programs as we can for the best amount of money that’s available to us.” 

Medicaid, childcare, and foster care were topics specifically raised as important to committee members. 

Aside from Messenger, state representatives on the committee include Kip Kendrick, a Democrat; Cody Smith, a Republican; Mike Stephens, a Republican; and Sarah Unsicker, a Democrat.

GOP Sen. David Sater is the co-chairman of the committee. Aside from him and Schupp, the senators include Kiki Curls, a Democrat; Dan Hegeman, a Republican; and Jeanie Riddle, a Repubilcan. 

Messenger said he planned for committee to meet at least two more times before the end of the year to go over the organization of the programs.