5 fairer welfare reforms

Our government has been very open-handed with providing for our needs, even when we don’t want it. And maybe shouldn’t accept it.

For the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) alone, the Hawaii Department of Human Services spent over $33 million each month to help over 77,000 households in fiscal year 2011. That’s up from $14 million each month to help over 47,000 households in fiscal year 2008.

First, let’s be honest. We can call it “aid to families with dependent children” or “supplemental nutrition assistance,” but it’s welfare: temporary assistance for those in need. It is not meant to be a lifelong benefit.

Second, let’s concentrate on reforming welfare for the needy. We’ll brainstorm about solutions for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid at another time.

I’ve come up with five welfare reform ideas. They may seem strict and counter-intuitive, but these are policies that will help strengthen families and personal responsibility:

1. Limit welfare benefits to 48 months. Hawaii could limit welfare benefits to 48 months, but continue forms of support: food stamps, Medicaid, child care, and emergency services. In September 2011, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed into law a four-year lifetime limit on cash welfare benefits, with exemptions for the elderly and the disabled. Six other states – Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin – have five-year limits on welfare, while Indiana has a two-year limit for adults.

2. No welfare benefits for underage mothers. We need to encourage teens to finish school and find a job, instead of making it easy for them to be irresponsible. Let’s channel welfare money into 1) shelters for mothers who lack the support of their families; and 2) daycare programs so that mothers can finish school.

3. Reduce welfare benefits for single mothers (excluding widows) and encourage “co-parents.” Welfare encourages single-parent families and discourages responsible fatherhood. Instead, we should encourage two-parent families and marriage. Why not allow a mother and a supporting family member or friend to apply as co-parents?

4. No increase in welfare benefits if you have more children. Higher benefits reward irresponsible pregnancies. Instead, welfare assistance should allow for the number of dependent children at the time of the welfare application.

5. Reward families who no longer need assistance. After one year without welfare assistance, let’s reward families with a small, one-time grant that could be used as a down-payment on a home or car, or a necessary medical expense (only specific uses would qualify). It would offer families a small “savings” (some of the money they would have received from welfare during that year) that may help them just when they need it most.

Political commentator Lawrence Auster warned, “Once the government becomes the supplier of people’s needs, there is no limit to the needs that will be claimed as a basic right.” Welfare is not a right; it is a safety net. What do you think?

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4 Comments on “5 fairer welfare reforms”

  1. Sachie Nakagawa Says:

    I was at Sack ‘n Save this morning. A young woman had 3 large containers of seafood poke. I thought wow, each container must be at least $20.00. Along with vienna sausage and a few other things, her bill came out to $81.81 – all paid discretely via EBT card. That was absolutely infuriating when I’m buying a head of lettuce and meatballs for lunch with my hard earned money.

    The type of foods people are allowed to buy should definitely be looked at.

    • Sadly, I’ve heard similar stories from others. But I don’t think we can or should micromanage EBT. It all comes down to trust — we have to trust (and verify) that they really need our help, and will not take advantage of our kindness. What they do reflects on them.

      • Sachie Says:

        A few months ago, I refinanced my home. The bank did not hand me a check to pay off the old loan, but all funds were handled through an escrow company. They certainly did not “trust” me that I’d pay off the first loan.

        When it’s my tax dollars buying someone a prepared meal that most people can’t even afford, I am certainly not going to just “trust” that they are using the money in the right way.

        There is a sign at many national widlife parks that reads “Don’t feed the animals, they will become dependent on humans.” While welfare recipients are certainly not aniamls, I believe the same principal applies. If you make things so comofrotable for people (like buying 3 tubs of poke), what incentive will they have to ever be on their own? It’s hard to go from something like that, to coming home to cook every night after a long day at work.

        This is not only doing a disservice to the taxpayer, but to the recipient as well.

        I am passionate about this because I was once a single mother with no family support making $12.00 an hour. I lived on my own, put myself through college, and now am a proud homeowner.

        I strongly believe that rules need to be put in place so that only the basic necessites are provided for. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Fruits, vegetables, certain types of protein (chicken / beef) , and basic cooking ingredients.

        In certain parts of the mainland, prepared foods are taxed at a higher rate…why? Because they are a luxury…not a necessity.

      • Sachie, thank you for sharing your story with us. You have a really good point – welfare can lead people to take the easy road, not just with work and spending, but with health and nutrition. Have a great new year! aloha, Rachelle

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