Skip to main content

The Economy Nosedives, The Poor take the ‘Hit’

Federal Administration for Children & Families logo.
A story in today’s New York Times comports to something many Sacramento poor and homeless people are experiencing or are well aware of: As the economy contracts, the poor are taking an inordinate and unconscionable share of the ‘hit.’

The article, “Welfare Aid Isn’t Growing as Economy Drops Off,” begins with these words: “Despite soaring unemployment and the worst economic crisis in decades, 18 states cut their welfare rolls last year, and nationally the number of people receiving cash assistance remained at or near the lowest in more than 40 years.”

What is the culprit for this contra-intuitive development? Welfare rolls getting cut as the economy tanks!? Answer: State and local discretion in how to respond to growing hardship. Or, more simply, the lack of political influence poor people and their advocates have.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families [formerly, “welfare”; aka, TANF], which provides cash assistance to indigent American families with dependent children, is supposed to be a vital social safety net. Rules were tightened by legislation a Republican congress passed in 1996, and which President Bill Clinton signed into law. It is only now, with the economy in a tailspin, that we see the true effect of the harsh legislation from 13 years ago.

Quoting the Times article,

Even some of TANF’s staunchest defenders are alarmed.

“There is ample reason to be concerned here,” said Ron Haskins, a former Republican Congressional aide who helped write the 1996 law overhauling the welfare system. “The overall structure is not working the way it was designed to work. We would expect, just on the face it, that when a deep recession happens, people could go back on welfare.”

“When we started this, Democratic and Republican governors alike said, ‘We know what’s best for our state; we’re not going to let people starve,’ ” said Mr. Haskins, who is now a researcher at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “And now that the chips are down, and unemployment is going up, most states are not doing enough to help families get back on the rolls.”

The program’s structure — fixed federal financing, despite caseload size — may discourage states from helping more people because the states bear all of the increased costs. By contrast, the federal government pays virtually all food-stamp costs, and last year every state expanded its food-stamp rolls; nationally, the food program grew 12 percent.

The clashing trends in some states — more food stamps, but less cash aid — suggest a safety net at odds with itself.

It is hard to parse data from the article and other online sources for just California – but here is what SacHo found:

According to a graphic display that ran alongside the article, California’s foodstamp program saw an increase from Oct07 to Oct08 that was between 10 and 20%, whereas with cash disbursements, where the state had discretionary control, there was only a 6.3% increase using the same periods of comparison.

In the county of Sacramento, basing information on the 11th page of this county document, state aid to the county for welfare programs will decrease from over $900 million in the 07-08 Budget to $872 million in 08-09, a decrease of 3.2%.

Meantime, federal aid will increase from $613 million to $652 million, an increase of 6.2%.

The information that we find supports the Times article's thesis that state and local government load the pain of an economy in decline onto the poor, who have little political clout. Even as the poor are increasing in number, it is they who take a forehead-whacking, inordinate 'hit.'

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

More Homeless Hate from Marcos Breton

There was a long spell a handful of years ago when Marcos Breton said something so fully ridiculous in one of his hateful screeds against homeless folk that it appeared to be very apparent he had been taken off the Homeless Beat by his superiors. Unhappily, after a few months, Breton was again writing disparaging columns about homeless folk

In today's Bee [3/5/17], Breton has written one of his longest columns. Online, it is titled "The price downtown Sacramento is paying for Mayor Steinberg’s homeless crusade
"
Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/marcos-breton/#storylink= It goes on for days. The message, essentially, is this: Homeless people poop; they're getting a great deal of what they want from the overmuch-helpful mayor; and business people proximate to Chavez Park are made miserable by the forever-disgusting homeless that are there in great number.

O.K. Let's get into all this a bit. Except in Breton's mind, homeless pe…

The first-person dimension of homeless Sacramentans suffering from Schizophrenia

"Disabilities and dysfunction process from having been shunned and denied access to needed opportunitites and networks of support."
~ the brothers Lysaker in Schizophrenia and the Fate of the Self What is schizophrenia? How many are homeless Sacramentans?

Perhaps 15% of the Sacramento homeless population suffers from schizophrenia. The percentage is difficult to determine for many reasons that branch from both the fuzzy definition of the malady and that many people within the homeless community who have the illness (1) are in denial and are undiagnosed and (2) have the illness as a diagnosis only – the disability can be faked by people who are successful claimants of social security and other benefits.

What is schizophrenia? One webspace gives us this definition: The most chronic and disabling of the severe mental disorders. Typically develops in the late teens or early twenties. The overt symptoms are hallucinations (hearing voices, seeing visions), delusions (false beliefs ab…

Homelessness and Remembrance

This is a follow-up on the matter of remembering homeless people who have died and the Wall that Libby Fernandez wants to build in remembrance of the deceased. [See earlier blogpost "Tell Libby NOT to build her wall."]

This blogpost is prompted by a Philosophy Bites podcast released in the last couple days -- titled "Cécile Fabre on Remembrance." Fabre's take on why we honor or grieve for certain individuals or certain collections of individuals is not greatly helpful -- since his focus is mainly one of fallen war heroes and war casualties -- but it does open up the issue of why should there be a remembrance effort for deceased homeless people at all. Who is served by it? And has the effort been perverted by the avarice of charities in their insatiable drive for donations.

It is, for starters, a curious thing for "homeless people" to be a collective that is honored. I write that NOT because I don't want the best for homeless people. But, homelessn…