The single most-searched question on my blog is about how long people receive Welfare. People ask about third-generation Welfare recipients. I ask if there are any or is that an urban myth? People ask about poor people receiving Welfare for thirty years. The Dept. of Social Services (DSS) web site says that you only can get “Temporary Assistance”—that’s what Welfare is actually called—for five years. What happens to poor people after that? When I was on Welfare in the 1970’s, I was told that the average is eighteen months. People need help for a little while then pull themselves back up. So how long do people get Welfare?
DSS Commissioner David Sutkowy says he hasn’t got a clue—he’s not asking. Herewith Commissioner Sutkowy’s message to me:
Sources of data:
The data provided comes from various sources, including;
Applications for assistance (the demographic data in #1 is taken directly for applications for assistance. It reflects what applicants write on their applications.
The 2011 County Budget book
Question 1. Demographics of people receiving Medicaid/Welfare: Sex, race, age, marital status, geographical area, level of education.
Answer: The following computer runs reflect the information we have. This
information is self-reported from the individuals’ application for assistance.
Geographic information reported is by zip code. For ethnic status, applicants can describe themselves by more than one code.
[The links to the spread sheets would not reproduce. ACW]
Question 2. How much is in the Onondaga County budget for direct Medicaid and Welfare payments? How much is paid by the state or federal government? What is the average monthly payment to a person on Welfare?
Answer: 2011 County budget included $94 million for the local share of Medicaid. We don’t budget the federal and state shares but the 2010 actual gross Medicaid cost for our County was $693 million. 2011 budget included $19.7 million gross and $8.7 million local for Safety Net Assistance. 2011 budget included $21.9 million gross and $9.9 million local for Family Assistance.
The 2011 budget estimated an average cost per Safety Net case at $490/month, and the average cost per Family Assistance case at $540/month.
Question 3. On average, how long does a recipient receive Welfare?
Answer: Our data system cannot collect this information.
Question 4. Are Welfare/Medicaid payments made to (a) healthy single men; (b) non-citizens; (c) drug addicts; (d) people with criminal records (felony or misdemeanor)?
Answer: Eligibility for assistance is generally based only on household income and resources. All US citizens are eligible, along with legal aliens. The only category listed above not eligible is illegal aliens. Eligibility criteria is established by the federal and state governments.
- How have the figures changed over the past five years?
Answer: The Medicaid and Food Stamp caseloads have risen steadily over the past five years. The Welfare caseload had declined steadily from 1996 through 2008. However, with the downturn in the economy, that caseload has risen about 25% since that time. [End of message]
My comment: The number I would most like to call your attention to is $490. That’s what a poor person on Welfare has to live on for a month. Try it. That’s roughly the equivalent of one trip to the doctor, including transportation, tests and prescriptions. We are putting all our money into sickness, not the minimum necessary for a healthy lifestyle.
If you would like to share your thoughts on all of this with Commissioner Sutkowy, he can be reached at “Sutkowy, David (DFA3-A31)” [For reasons unknown to me, Mr. Sutkowy’s email address is being erased by the computer. Send your messages to me and I’ll forward them.]