(My apologies for not having posted recently. I’ve been dealing with some tough personal problems.)
On April 14, I posted “Who’s on Welfare? They’re working on it. . . ” (https://annecwoodlen.wordpress.com/2011/04/13/whos-on-welfare-theyre-working-on-it/ ), which stated that Dept. of Social Services Commissioner David Sutkowy said that he would have two of his guys write reports, which they would send to him and he would send to me. I said that what I was looking for was “. . . one page with a couple dozen numbers on it. I expect that what I will get from Mr. Sutkowy’s report writers is something between six and forty pages of words.”
What Mr. Sutkowy actually sent me was 253 words and 59 pages of attached spread sheets with numbers. It took him 18 business days to produce it; that would be 14 words a day. I can do a thousand words an hour, so it only would have taken me fifteen minutes but, what the heck, I’m just really glad to receive the report. And Amelia the Erstwhile and I are tickled pink to have 59 pages of spread sheets to cover the living room floor. So here’s the dope:
Total Number of People Receiving Services
You may recall that the U.S. Census Bureau put the number of poor people in Onondaga County around 58,000 and I expected that to be about the same as the number of people of Welfare. David Sutkowy says on the web site that the Dept. of Social Services (DSS) is providing services to 70,000 people. So here are some Sutkowy facts about who’s receiving Welfare (i.e., Temporary Assistance) and Medicaid:
Medicaid recipients: 69,831
Food Stamps: 58,940
Temporary Assistance: 14,135
Either the Census Bureau is wrong in estimating 58,ooo poor people, or DSS is giving Medicaid to ten thousand people who are not poor. Knowing all the things I know about DSS, I’m going with the idea that the Census Bureau has got it wrong. When it comes to numbers, always believe the people closest to the count.
Rounding off, seventy thousand people are receiving health insurance. Sixty thousand are getting groceries. Only fourteen thousand are getting Welfare.
Welfare isn’t the problem. Five times the number of people who are getting Welfare are getting Medicaid. Four times the number of people who are getting Welfare are getting Food Stamps. There are tons more people who need penicillin and potatoes than need help to pay the rent. In other words, there are forty-five to fifty-five thousand people who can pay their own rent, but can’t afford food or medicine.
Off the top of my head, I can offer you two reasons why Welfare numbers are so low and Medicaid and Food Stamp numbers are so high. First, the working poor. Many people have jobs that enable them to pay the rent but not afford the luxuries of food and medicine.
A case example: I knew a husband and wife who both were working sixty hours a week but they had no insurance and their five kids were on Medicaid. How is this possible? The parents were both working for Medicaid. They were drivers for medical transportation, which is mostly paid for by Medicaid. Medicaid payouts are very low, consequently, the drivers were only getting minimum wage with no benefits. They are the working poor—people busting their asses for long hours and not being paid enough to take care of their kids.
When you talk about cutting Medicaid, you think about reducing benefits to the end-point user. What you need to realize is that when you cut Medicaid then you are also cutting the income of the people who are paid by Medicaid. Most home health aides are getting paid by Medicaid. They get little more than minimum wage, and no benefits. The typical home health aide is a single mother with children on Medicaid. The cycle is endless and vicious.
The second group of people who get Medicaid and Food Stamps but not Welfare are the federally poor. Everybody who is receiving any kind of Social Security is vulnerable to poverty. I am receiving $782 a month on Social Security disability and by federal standards—not to mention your standards—that makes me poor. My income has been $782 for the past three years and will continue the same next year with no cost of living increase. Most of the 180 people living in my apartment building are in the same boat, consequently we’re getting Medicaid and Food Stamps (and HEAP). We are poor by virtue of old age and disability but our basic needs are met by the federal government, not the county.
The Dept. of Social Services has a unit whose sole function is to get people transferred from Welfare to some other form of assistance, usually Social Security Disability. Onondaga County, instead of taking care of its own, is working to spread the burden nationwide.
Here’s what I’d like to know: How many people work in the transfer unit, and what are they costing us in salary and benefits? Then I would like to know the dollar value of how many people they’ve moved from the county rolls to the federal roll. Would it be cheaper to shut down the unit and make the Welfare payments?
Today’s lesson: Welfare is not the problem; Medicaid and Food Stamps are the problem. Next time I’ll give you the news about Welfare, Medicaid and race: can we keep blaming the blacks?