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There's a lot you can't do with welfare money in Kansas today.

The state has sparked more than a little controversy with new legislation, dubbed the HOPE Act, that bans the use of Kansas benefit cards for a host of items.

Many other states have rules that are similar, but CNN and other news organizations deem this one the "strictest" such law in America, which is part of a wider scheme.

Signed this week, it blocks people getting aid from the state's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program from using their benefits for the expected no-nos, like alcohol, gambling and smoking, cruises and strip clubs.

But there's much, much more. You can't use aid funds for tattoos, massages, spas, nail salons, lingerie, movies, video arcades, swimming pools, concerts, and "collegiate sporting event tickets or tickets for other entertainment events intended for the general public," among other things.

(Not on the list, as in some other states, are guns. Because to ban those would be downright un-American.)

And no surprise here, but, according to the Associated Press, beneficiaries of the program have plunged to just under 15,000 since Republican Gov. Sam Brownback was elected.

"Proud to sign the HOPE Act today, equipping Kansans with the work training they need to break the cycle of generational poverty," Mr. Brownback said this week on his Facebook page.

(It's lucky for the people who need to see it that you don't have to pay for Facebook, or they'd no doubt ban that, too.)

"These welfare-to-work policies allow us to help more Kansans find a new path and career as they experience the dignity, independence, and economic security that lead to a brighter future," he added.

Dignity, yes. A night out at the movies, no.

As you'd expect (and, actually, rightly so) social advocates don't like it.

"The list has attracted attention because it feels mean-spirited," Shannon Cotsoradis, the chief of Kansas Action for Children, told the Associated Press.

"It really seems to make a statement about how we feel about the poor."

There are other limits to the program, the KAC says on its website, but it's the list that has caught attention among others.

"With one in five Kansas kids living in poverty, we should improve access to support programs, not limit them," it says.

The Kansas Department for Children and Families says the state has been "unfairly criticized," adding that 83 per cent of Americans "support policies that require welfare recipients to work." Including a majority of the state's lawmakers.

"No one is banning a low-income family from going to a swimming pool," the DCF said on its Facebook page.

"The Kansas HOPE Act simply says your welfare benefits are there to help you temporarily obtain the basic necessities for your family. Basic necessities include  shelter, utilities, food, diapers, etc."

The law was aimed at getting people jobs through programs that have been around for years, the DCF said, adding these policies have "drastically" cut the number of welfare recipients and helped 6,000 people get back to work in the last  year alone.

Alll of which sounds good in principle.

But if Disney ever re-releases The Jungle Book, you won't be able to take the kids to the theatre and enjoy Baloo and Mowgli singing The Bare Necessities.

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