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NY Times: Welfare System Falls Short for Poorest Americans

By    |   Tuesday, 17 February 2015 10:44 PM

There is a gap in the welfare system that is leaving the lowest income Americans without much federal help, if any, the New York Times asserts.

The newspaper features two single-parent families with similar circumstances. The parent who holds down a full-time job, however, receives more aid than the parent who is looking for work.

The gap is forcing many Americans to fend for themselves when it comes to providing housing and food for themselves and their families.

"Most observers would think that the government should support those who have the lowest incomes the most, and provide less help to those with higher incomes," Johns Hopkins University economist Robert A. Moffitt states in an article about to be published in the Journal Demography. The article has been posted online by left-leaning magazine Mother Jones and was cited by the Times. "But that is not the case."

Charles Constance, 53, lives in New Orleans with his 9-year-old son. The pair had been living in a homeless shelter because Constance was unable to find a steady job, according to the Times piece. Constance points to his criminal record as a reason why he's had a tough time getting work.

In theory, the government would provide aid to someone in this situation, but Constance and his son were not getting much help. And that's a trend, notes the Times, as Americans earning little to no money are generally in the same boat.

Constance and his son now live in an apartment paid for by the Salvation Army and receive a small amount of food stamps every month.

For another family comprised of a 34-year-old single mother of two living in Washington, D.C., help is more steady. Camille Saunders has a full-time job and receives food stamps, a rent subsidy, and a tax refund designed for those who earn low wages. She is also looking to start a cleaning business, so she's eligible to receive a federal grant for help with that.

According to data cited by the Times, assistance to Americans who need it has gone up since 1983. But help to the poorest Americans has actually decreased.

"There's been this emphasis on rewarding workers and people like the elderly or disabled who are considered 'the deserving poor,'" Moffitt said in his article. "If you're not working, the interpretation is that you're not trying."

Part of the problem, according to the Times report, is changes to the welfare system that took effect in 1996 under President Bill Clinton. The new rules look at the length of time someone has been on welfare and whether or not they're working.

"It got rid of welfare cheaters," Sheldon Danziger, president of social sciences research firm Russell Sage Foundation, told the Times. "But we forgot about people who want to work but can't find anybody to hire them."

The current White House is trying to address the problem with proposed legislation like a minimum wage increase and a $500 tax credit for families with two working parents.

Republican governors, meanwhile, are pushing for stricter welfare programs that would impose drug testing and other requirements on those who want help.

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There is a gap in the welfare system that is leaving the lowest income Americans without much federal help, if any, the New York Times asserts.
welfare, system, poor, americans, media, new york times
Tuesday, 17 February 2015 10:44 PM
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