Who is Receiving Welfare and Medicaid?

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?

Law/library resource

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?

Additional subsidies

How many people on Welfare are also getting Food Stamps?



HUD subsidy?

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?

In short

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.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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9 Responses to Who is Receiving Welfare and Medicaid?

  1. George says:

    I found this essay in a search for the very information it requests. That info doesn’t seem to be available.
    I am completely sick of snarling haters screaming about the public assistance burden with absolutely no information to base anything at all on. I was hoping to find something to answer this stuff with.
    I’d like to see a renewed and more public effort to get out ‘news’ media to actually do a little reporting and answer the above questions.

  2. melinda moss says:

    Just found this through an extensive search that took me all morning and a genius friend of mine several hours. What was I searching for? The percentage of welfare recipients by county in Missouri. I live in Linn Co. Missouri and I have not been able to find anything of use.
    I am going to start by calling the DFS office where I personally know the employees, and start with a list of benefits. These seem to change all time, but I am ones I am aware of are TANIF (TANF?), SNAP, HUD, WIC & ADC. At this point I don’t know if Missouri even uses all these, but I am going make a list and then ask them if they know any govt. websites where I could find this information.

    I do this after becoming increasingly frustrated with the fact that the public school keeps signing up people for programs at the same time as they are screaming that they need more money. We just passed a .90 bond levy on ourselves last night. They do not seem to realize that there is only a certain percentage of us who pay taxes, and by raising our taxes they are driving us out of town because we can no longer afford to live here. How they could not make this connection is beyond me, but looking for information such as you listed above here is proving to be quite the challenge! If you have discovered anywhere that I could find information like this would certainly appreciate the site addresses.

    ps. I love that you are still there.on your family land. 🙂

    • annecwoodlen says:

      The percentage of welfare recipients by county–first you need to know how many people are in the county. Check the U.S. Census Quickfacts for that. Then you need to know how many people are on welfare. The most reliable source for that information is the local county Dept. of Social Services, but that means working every county to give you information that may not be available without filing a Freedom of Information Act request. Probably there is some state department that has the information, but good luck figuring it out. After you get the raw numbers then you need to do the math to get the percentages.

      I don’t know what DFS is, nor do I understand why you want a list of benefits. SNAP is Food Stamps. What information do you want from HUD, WIC, etc.? And, oh by the way, welfare is not the issue. In my county, which is probably fairly typical of the nation, Medicaid has the largest number of recipients, with Food Stamps second and Welfare last. Where is the single biggest chunk of taxpayer’s money going? To young white females who have babies that the fathers’ don’t support.

      I would suppose that public schools are “signing up people for programs” not because it has anything to do with the school budget but because it is the one place where you can gather and sort all the kids at once.

      Your goal is not clear to me. Do you want to prove that you can’t afford to help people who are worse off than you? How much do you understand about what it means to be poor? Have you ever been so poor that you couldn’t afford bus fare to a free concert, or buy a newspaper?

      Are you trying to prove how expensive it is to taxpayers to help poor people? Yes, it is expensive. But let me ask you this: what’s the alternative? How many panhandlers do you donate to? If people were put in the street with begging bowls, would you give? The alternative is death. Are you ready to shoulder the responsibility of people dying because you wouldn’t help them? Do you think God would be okay with that? Do you have a better plan?

      In the last year, my home health care nurse has been telling me stories of old sick people who no longer can get the medications and supplies they need for survival. Things like catheter supplies are being eliminated from the Medicare/Medicaid budgets. Are you looking to document that you no longer should have to pay for sick people’s care?

      Also, you are mixing programs that are run by county, state and federal agencies, which is going to give you overlapping and misleading figures. The Reference Dept. of your local public library can provide assistance in some cases.

      It appears that you want to find out how much of your money is being spent to help people who can’t help themselves. Do I understand you correctly?

      • melinda moss says:

        My issue is that the school seems to be taking over our town. We just passed a bond levy on ourselves that will be collected through property taxes. I am trying to see how many of us this will affect, because I believe that a MINORITY of us even pay property taxes to begin with, and I am sure the money collected will not be enough. The end result is that people are being forced to consider relocating to somewhere they can better afford to live. When you are spending other people’s money, it is never enough. I believe it never will be, especially when you have a voting base that does not realize they are voting increases on a small percentage that will not get you what you think you “need” anyway. Johnny can’t read, but we have a gym with a rubberized floor and a batting cage. Seriously. About 65% of our students are on free or reduced lunches, and the dependency of our school on federal money has not improved the quality of education in any way that I can see.
        I also keep hearing that we have so many in our town because “we have better benefits”, but I have not been able to verify it and do not even know if that is a fact. That is why I was trying to start with a list to even see who gets what and why.
        I think our biggest percentage of welfare recipients are young girls who have babies, but need to be able to prove it. I also know of a high school kid who refused to mind the rules of his parents, so he moved out and was promptly signed up for free housing and food stamps without any questioning. This is in a small town of 3300 people where I am certain the person who signed him up and approved him would have known the situation. The parents of this boy are mortified, but he is 18 and still has a year of HS left and they can’t really do anything.
        I am a single mother of 4 children. I get child support and the only assistance I have ever received has been reduced lunches for a few years when all the children were at home. I have always worked for a living and carried insurance, but this year when my co-pay went up to $40, we have not been back to the Dr. because it is not in the budget and no one has been deathly sick. Thank God.
        I haven’t eaten supper for the last 4 years and mostly eat fried eggs or oatmeal for breakfast and lunch. That is how I have made it and I have no regrets. I cannot afford a lot of things, and I have struggled to keep my children from having an attitude of entitlement. I have tried to teach them that they will have to work for what they get and that we don’t always get what we need. When I found out I was pregnant with twins at 32 and decided to have them, I knew it would involve sacrifices, and would come at a cost. They are totally worth it.
        I don’t think we will ever cut off welfare benefits for everyone, even though we no longer have enough money to pay them. I would really like to see the fraud stop with this, and the only way I believe that will ever happen is at the local level. I am certain that the people who work with the welfare recipients will be the key to stopping the fraud. We have to help the helpless, but I think Christian charity would fill that void for the people who honestly need the help. Everybody wants to help people, I believe, but nobody wants to be used and played for a fool. If people had to deal with a “friend” who was helping them instead of showing up as an anonymous recipient with no questions asked I think the fraud would be cut in half. After all, if one of my kids needs to borrow $20 dollars and I give it to them, then find evidence that they bought beer instead of gas with the money, I am not going to give them money again, and for good reason. I think this is a lesson that is lost on many of our youth, who do not have a family structure in their lives to begin with.

      • annecwoodlen says:

        Let’s start with your statement in which people are getting welfare by “showing up as an anonymous recipient with no questions asked.” That is so not true! In order to get social service benefits, you have to lay yourself bare. Every aspect of your life is examined by complete strangers. You trade benefits for privacy. Did you ever apply for Medicaid, Food Stamps or Welfare? And if not, why not? Every question in the world is asked before you get benefits.

        Your entire comment is based on one single thing: you don’t believe that people are poor because of circumstances beyond their control. You believe that they are lazy and/or immoral. You are judgmental, which also is not a Christian value.

        The fact is that apparently you need help and instead of asking for it, you are maligning those who do get help.

        You say that you haven’t eaten supper for four years but you haven’t been back to the doctor. Apparently that not-eating thing works for you–kept your weight down, didn’t it? And the typical American runs to the doctor every month when there’s no bloody need to–every cough, every headache–and it’s off to the doctor. Since you’ve been doing okay without the doctor, it appears you were making unnecessary trips to the doctor.

        And let’s talk about your decision to have twins when you were 32: where’s their father? You want to bitch about kids not having a family structure? Let’s talk about you; you’re the role model for not having a good family structure. Are the fathers of all your children paying support? What kind of work have you been doing to support your children? Did you have an advanced education that enabled you to get a good-paying job? What if you were in a bad school disrict with high unemployment? No jobs, and the few that exist are going to the better-trained people.

        Oh, yeah, and about that 18-year-old who is getting benefits–good for him! In the first place, he is not “a high school kid”; under the law, he is an adult. And he did not get services “without any questioning.” That’s an ignorant statement. He was questioned up, down and sideways. Every government office that provides social services has a mandate to DENY BENEFITS. How can you not realize that? Politicians do not get re-elected by increasing benefits. The word is out to cut everybody they can–and the workers who are doing the cutting are your neighbors who feel exactly like you do. Do you have any idea how awful it is to be too sick to work and to have to face questioning by some bitch who thinks you’re just lazy? Do you know how demeaning it is? First you get sick, then you get poor, then you get raped by the system–which is made up of people like you. And about that 18-year-old and his parents: you judge from outside. You have no idea what was going on inside that home. Kids in healthy homes do not go out on their own. And they most certainly do not go out on their own AND STAY IN SCHOOL. I’m going to make an educated guess that the parents were terrible, the kid established himself on his own–which is really, really hard–and now his parents are mortified because the world knows that he’s better off without them.

        You say that you “keep hearing that we have so many in our town because ‘we have better benefits,’ but I have not been able to verify it.” Did you ever think you cannot verify it BECAUSE IT’S NOT TRUE? This is one of the arguments that is claimed by every bigot I know.

        It appears that you own a house. Good for you. That makes you one of the privileged people in our society. Most of us can’t afford houses. I was on a bus one day when the driver–who is in a union and is VERY well-paid (about $25/hour)–and also owns property from which she receives rental income–was bitching because she couldn’t get HEAP. Just how rich do you think you should be? My income is $800 a month; what’s yours?

        “We don’t always get what we need.” Yes, actually, we do. We don’t get what we WANT but government allowances will get you what you need. Instead of bitching, and trying to prove your foregone conclusions, e.g., that no questions are asked, why don’t you go apply for benefits? If you need help then get it. If you refuse to apply then shut up. If you have applied and been denied because you’re not REALLY poor–just don’t have as much as you want–then shut up.

        “We have to help the helpless, but I think Christian charity would fill that void.” When was the last time you went to church? When was the last time you engaged in “Christian charity?” Now you’re going to tell me that you can’t afford to. Guess what? Churches are now 2/3 empty. There is no organized base from which to develop charitable programs. Social welfare programs got started as a result of the Great Depression in which neither family nor churches could provide enough assistance for survival.

        You need a serious education; I hope you get it.

  3. Joanna says:

    I too was looking for statistical evidence to counter accusations of “generations” on welfare! My hope is that Melinda gets additional information which may increase her compassion.

    I have been very fortunate in my life; healthy, well educated and always employed. Having a few “outliers” who cheat the system should not deter us from helping those truly in need. All systems, even churches, will have those who take advantage. The goal should be to continuously improve the system.

    Having been a teacher for 10 years I find that picking on poor people is akin to bullying.

    • annecwoodlen says:

      Oh, thank God for your reasonable response! I’ve gotten so much crap that I’d just about given up on there being any sensible people out there. Any astute businessman knows that there is going to be a certain amount of loss from theft. The issue is how much? You decide what a reasonable percentage is and then you just keep going and don’t worry about it. In one Medicaid program, only one percent of the participants was found to be engaging in fraud, nevertheless the Dept. of Social Services was surveying every participant every month.

      From “And the People Say ‘HOO-RAH!’” (https://annecwoodlen.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/and-the-people-say-hoo-rah-part-i/):

      “Administrators at Enable and Arise have informed me that in the past three years, the Dept. of Social Services has only identified 7 of the 730 aides—that is, one percent—as engaging in fraud. By any business standards, that is an awesomely low rate of wrong-doing. During the same three years, Enable and Arise have identified an additional 11 fraudulent aides before their services were billed to the Dept. of Social Services. In short, the aides hired by Enable and Arise are of superior morality, and Enable and Arise are providing more effective oversight than is the Dept. of Social Services. There is no established need for surveillance by the Medicaid Fraud Unit.”

  4. David Glen says:

    Have you ever seen the documentory movie called THE WILD AND WONDERFUL WHITES of WEST VIRGINIA ?

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