On August 22, 2010, I sent the following email to Stan Linhorst, managing editor of the Post-Standard.
I got into an argument with a woman who works at JOBSplus!, which is located at 677 S. Salina St. It is a joint partnership between the Onondaga County Dept. of Social Services and Onondaga Community College. Its sole purpose is to get people on Welfare back to work.
She says that 8000 people who registered at JOBSplus! got jobs. She also says there is no such thing as a “typical” Welfare-to-work person, which is nonsense. When you have a subject pool of 8000 people, of course you have a “typical” applicant. I want to know what a typical Welfare recipient looks like.
To whatever extent you follow the comments on Syracuse.com, you know that many people who read the Post-Standard believe that Welfare recipients are (a) black, (b) between the ages of 18 and 35, (c) lazy, and (d) second- or third-generation Welfare recipients. Also, if they are male then they are drug-dealing criminals; if they are female then they are drug-using sluts.
How about doing a series on who really is getting Welfare and/or Medicaid? What say we spread some facts around?
Where and how many?
What is the total population of the county and city?
How many people (and what percent) are getting Welfare/Medicaid?
Where are the greatest concentrations (eastside/southside/towns/villages/rural/reservation)?
How does Onondaga compare to other New York State counties?
How do the poverty figures for Central New York compare to, for example, Missouri? (I’ve heard that our economic picture is bleaker than theirs.)
Who pays and how much?
How much is paid out each month/year in Welfare/Medicaid?
What portion of the county budget goes to direct Welfare payments?
What portion is paid directly by the Onondaga County taxpayers?
How much is paid by New York State or other sources?
What is the breakdown of recipients by race—white/black/other?
Of the total residents of Onondaga County, what percent of whites and blacks are on Welfare?
(I went through a spell of asking everybody I met what they thought was the percentage of black people in the city. Answers ranged from 30 to 55%. According to the last U.S. Census, it’s 27%. Nobody knows the facts.)
What is the breakdown by age?
How many are minor children?
What’s the youngest age at which a person can get Welfare in his/her own name?
How many aged 20-30, 30-40, 40-50, 50-60?
At what age does a person transfer from Welfare to Social Security?
There’s a fellow who got a law degree, practiced law for a while, then quit and got an information technology degree. He is now working at the Onondaga County Public Library at the Galleries. He’s in the Reference Department and specializes in government documents. I spent an hour with him one day while he spewed out scores of charts. Did you know that the largest group of Welfare recipients is single mothers of minor children?
Single mothers with minor children
Of the single mothers of minor children, at what age did they become pregnant?
Were they ever married to their children’s father?
What’s the story on deadbeat dads?
Is the solution sex education, contraceptives, or marriage?
If they had it to do over again, what do the mothers say they would want to be different?
How many women have babies after they start receiving Welfare?
Does a woman profit by having more children on Welfare?
If a single mother wants to stay home and raise her pre-school children instead of putting them in day care, will she lose her Welfare?
Men, women and crime
How many Welfare recipients are female/male?
Can a healthy adult male qualify for Welfare?
Are convicted felons eligible for Welfare?
What about people convicted of misdemeanors?
How many people with criminal records are currently receiving Welfare?
Are people in drug rehab eligible for Welfare? How many are current recipients?
Citizenship and residency
What are the citizenship and residency requirements?
Are you eligible with a Green Card?
Can undocumented aliens get Welfare/Medicaid?
How many people on Welfare are also getting Food Stamps?
Source and duration of poverty
What causes people to become poor?
(When I was on Welfare around 1970, I was told that the average length of stay on Welfare was eighteen months. People slip below the poverty line and need a little help to get back on their feet.)
What is the average length of time on Welfare now?
What has it been for each of the past five years?
How is the state of the economy impacting the number of Welfare applicants? Recipients?
What percent of Welfare recipients have never worked?
How many are second- or third-generation Welfare recipients?
What is the recidivism rate of Welfare recipients?
Five years after getting off Welfare, what is the average income of ex-recipients?
Are they taxpayers?
How many are high school dropouts?
How many graduated high school?
How many graduated college or have higher degrees?
To what extent is lack of education the cause of poverty?
To what extent is lack of jobs the cause?
Eligibility and income
What are the Welfare eligibility criteria?
What percentage of applicants is determined ineligible?
How long does it take to get an eligibility determination?
What is the Welfare income rate based on?
When and how much was the last increase?
How much would a single adult living alone get?
What’s the dollar difference between working full-time at minimum wage and getting Welfare?
Getting back to work
What are the requirements for Welfare recipients to hunt for and find jobs?
What works best to get people off Welfare?
What agencies are most successful?
What kind of jobs do most Welfare recipients get? (Clerical? Maintenance? Skilled/unskilled? Fast food? Other?)
What education or training is available for Welfare recipients?
What transportation and child care assistance?
Are the local Welfare standards for disability different from Social Security’s standards?
The county Dept. of Social Services has a unit devoted solely to getting recipients transferred from Welfare to Social Security Disability or other. How’s that working?
What is the annual budget for the unit?
What is the dollar value of the number of people they got off county Welfare last year?
The county DSS also has a Fraud Unit. What is its budget? What is the dollar value of the fraud they uncovered last year?
How many people are poor? How’d they get that way? Where do they live and what do they look like? How much do they cost the taxpayers? How do we get them back to work?
Will you do some stories to answer these questions? Your readers haven’t got a clue what the facts are.
As of March 6, 2011, no stories have been published about who is receiving Welfare or Medicaid. Many, many stories have been published about state and county efforts to reduce payments to the unknown recipients.