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A Better Welfare System

In: Social Issues

Submitted By TMartinez1975
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Running head: A BETTER WELFARE SYSTEM 1

A Better Welfare System

Seminar 2: Developing Learning Tools

Ottawa University

Nancy Hindle

Teresa Martinez

February 24, 2012

Abstract

Welfare programs have been established to help the poor survive. Even in the 1930’s, when welfare programs were in their infancy, prominent members in government expressed concern that welfare programs may inadvertently promote abuse of the system. The work ethic of that generation was completely different than it is now. It was embarrassing to be on Welfare. It was humiliating to stand in line at the market and present food stamps to pay for food. In today’s society, there are many people that do abuse the welfare system. Today, there is no shame in expecting taxpayers to pay the way for those who refuse to work. They refuse to take a job because it isn’t something that they want to be doing, yet, they walk around in name brand clothing, fingernails done, hair done, driving new cars while on state assistance. Lawmakers have put the Welfare Reform in place, but concepts are not working. Lawmakers are constantly making changes to the systems in order to keep people from abusing the systems, but much more work is needed. If the abuse continues, the welfare system will be jeopardized because there won’t be any funds available to continue to run the programs that need to be in place for those that actually need the help. The trends in the literature on welfare reform clearly support the need to address the issue of rampant abuse of the system.

Overview of Welfare

Welfare programs have been established to help the poor survive. Many people have to go on welfare programs for a plethora of reasons. Due to the economy, it is hard for many people to find jobs to be able to support themselves and their families. Many have had to take positions that do not pay enough and legitimately try to use welfare to better their lives and the lives of their children, but are not well trained in how to maintain the financial and social strength the system gives them when they are no longer receiving the benefits. Some reasons that people may abuse the welfare systems are because they don’t make enough money at a mundane job or there are those that are not currently working but have their hair done, fingernails done, brand name clothing, and a brand new car. Abuse of the welfare system is putting a huge burden on the shoulders of the taxpayers. Lawmakers have put Welfare Reform in place, but the new concepts are not working, and they are not being utilized effectively to help the needy survive off of welfare. The literature on welfare programs and reform seem to point to overwhelming evidence that welfare reform is not consistently helping people become more independent and financially stable.

My Experience

I was married to my husband for eleven years. For most of my marriage, I was a stay-at-home mother at my husband’s request. Due to his drug use and the abuse I had to endure, I finally got up enough nerve to kick him out and file for divorce. Being left with three small children and no job forced me to file for state assistance until I was able to get on my feet.

Walking up to the counter at the social services office, I hung my head in shame. I was embarrassed at the thought of having to ask anyone for help. I asked myself what kind of mother I was if I had to apply for assistance like this. I sat down and filled out all of the paperwork and then met with a case worker. As I sat through this interview process, I could only think what this person was thinking of me. Upon completing the interview, I walked up to the front administrative area to make another appointment. As I was waiting in line, I looked around the room wondering what circumstances of life had brought the people around me into the office.

As a human being, we are all guilty of passing judgment on someone we don’t know. I’m sure many people have been in line at the grocery store only to see the well-dressed woman in front of them pull out her Vision card to buy some food, or the not so well dressed woman do the same. As we stand there and watch them make their purchases, we may wonder why they can’t get a job. We may tell ourselves that we work hard for our money, so should we have to support them too. Despite all that scrutiny, there are people who have no choice but to go on public assistance. It is the people who are guilty of abusing the system who make it harder for the people who actually need the help be able to get it.

Krannebitter (2008) stated “Welfare has become a target for gluttonous mothers and others who have no values or willingness to obtain a job. This definitely makes an impact on the needy families and people with disabilities who deserve to receive aid from this program. Mothers who sit around waiting for the next check to come in the mail and are not willing to do anything to help themselves or their families should not have the privilege of receiving government assistance. That is why there should be enforceable guide lines that are met to regulate how long people stay on the welfare system.”

History of Welfare

Even in the 1930’s, when welfare programs were in their infancy, prominent members in government expressed concern that welfare programs may inadvertently promote abuse of the system.

“Welfare was first established to assist widows be able to provide a stable home for their children. Yet even these popular programs, implemented in forty-four states by 1930, faced the criticism that cash assistance inevitably corrupts its recipients by destroying their work ethic and, in turn, their children’s work ethic. Even during the Great Depression, cash relief was limited out of a concern, expressed even by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, that its fostering of dependency undermines individual integrity and self-sufficiency.” (Welfare Reform, 2010).

The practice of public assistance began long before government programs like welfare were created.

In the early days of the United States, the colonies imported the British Poor Laws. These laws made distinction between those who were unable to work due to their age of physical health and those who were able-bodied but unemployed. The former group was assisted with cash or alternative forms of help from the government. The latter group was given public service employment in work houses. (Welfare Information, 2012).

This system might actually be a good model to which the government should refer in reforming today’s problematic welfare system. We should still be assisting people in finding employment as part of the welfare program. Instead, welfare is looked at for people who are lazy and don’t want to work, encouraging abuse of the system. In order to lessen abuse, we need to address the issues with the system and government changes need to occur along with the attitude of welfare recipients.

According to Krannebitter, “Although statistics show that Clinton's reform works, people are still continually abusing the system Recipients find new ways each year to prolong their dependency on the system. It is not fair to hard working tax payers who are giving their well-earned money to greedy, lazy Americans that are able to work, but do not choose to.”

Welfare Reform

According to Welfare Reform (2010), “President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a ‘War on Poverty’ in 1964, and welfare came to be seen as an entitlement—something deserved by poor families that met formal eligibility requirements.” According to the Almanac of Policy Issues (n.d.), “Growth accelerated during the 1960s and 1970s, however, and enrollment in the renamed Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) in 1994 reached a peak of 14.2 million recipients, a figure comprising 5.0 million families and 9.6 million children.” Well into the 1980s, when President Regan was in office, women on welfare who continued to give birth to children in order to receive more benefits was common. People like these gave opponents of welfare a basis for their arguments to be heard.

In the late 1990s, the Clinton Administration implemented the program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). With the passing of the new laws associated with this program, specific guidelines were set in place that restricted the eligibility of recipients. The guidelines limit the provision of cash assistance to families with a dependent child or a pregnant woman and impose a 60 month lifetime limit on the receipt of benefits.

Today, many states including Kansas, are looking at adopting mandatory drug testing be completed for anyone who receives welfare. I would ask lawmakers, why not adopt this concept. Many of us citizens must take random drug screens to have our jobs. So it only makes logical sense to make recipients’ of welfare have to be subjected to drug screening in order to receive assistance.

Cerullo (2012) reported the groups of lawmakers are proposing a three strikes rule. A first offense would result in a drug evaluation and possible education and treatment. A second drug test failure would result in a mandatory education and treatment program and removal from benefits for one year. A third strike would result in no cash assistance for life and anyone else in the household would have to get benefits from a state-approved third party. The recipients would pay for the drug screen out of their own pockets. If they pass the test, however, the cost would be reimbursed by the state. Right now, SRS says there are about 13,000 Kansas households on the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program.”

The trends in the literature on welfare reform show that the U.S. has tried over time to prevent people from abusing the welfare and to use it as it was originally intended, short-term assistance to stabilize one’s life enough to be become a solid, contributing member of society.

Kansas

According to McLean (2011), in Kansas alone, “The state provides approximately $440 million in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits each year and about $58 million in TAF (Temporary Aid for Families) cash assistance.” However, recent literature also suggests that the state of Kansas is tightening up its requisites for people to qualify for some welfare programs, in what officials described as a peregrinate to reduce expenses and fraud and encourage people to find work. Milburn (2011) deems the changes most significant.

The changes are among the most significant made to state programs since Congress approved reforms in 1996, replacing the open-ended Aid to Families with Dependent Children program with TANF, aimed at limiting the length of time benefits could be received. TANF is funded through federal block grants and administered by the states, much like the food stamp program.

A transition plan will be implemented for families nearing the new 48-month limit on TANF benefits, de Rocha said, helping them find employment before their cases are closed.

Some of the programs that are available for Kansas residents are work programs, education programs, the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (L.I.E.A.P.), food stamps, child care assistance, and Medicaid. There are many guidelines that recipients’ must meet in order to qualify for these programs, and state lawmakers are constantly tightening those qualifications.

Interviews

The trends in the literature support the contention that welfare reform is not consistently helping to reduce the number of people who abuse the system. Based on two recent interviews, it seems as though people working in the field of social work today feel the same way.

When I first signed up for welfare assistance, I was assigned a job placement specialist, Monica Olivia, to assist me in finding work. She came to my house and met with me. During the meeting, she asked me several questions in order to get to know me and what I would like to do. Needless to say, Monica was not successful in helping me find work. I ended up enrolling in college to continue my education and be able to support my family better. Over the years, Monica and I have had the opportunity to work together on a variety of projects. Monica even asked me to come speak to a group of SRS recipients’ about my journey of being on assistance and working hard to get off.

I also have formed a friendship with a co-worker, Stacie Nachtman, who also works as a caseworker at SRS. She has a wide knowledge of the welfare system and was able to provide me with useful answers to my questions.

I asked each of them about twenty questions regarding the welfare system. Each of these women was honest with her answers. The main point to these interviews was to see if these two people believed that the welfare system is abused. I asked them both if they thought the system is abused? Both replied yes in some aspects. There are individuals or families that are only on assistance for a short time due to a change in jobs, loss of employment, loss of unemployment, or a change in their family life somewhere that come on assistance and are gone just a quickly because their circumstances have changed. These are the individuals that have the hardest time applying because they have worked all their life. Then you have the ‘cyclers’ or ‘lifers’. Some individuals were brought up on state/federal assistance; they know how to work the system to ensure they are getting benefits of some sort. Cash assistance is not intended and has been set up to not be any longer than 48 months in a lifetime.

Final Thoughts

The trends in the literature on welfare reform clearly support the need to address the issue of rampant abuse of the system. Lawmakers have taken many measures over the years to try to prevent abuse from happening, but much work still needs to be done. Although there have been guidelines established to decrease recipients’ ability to abuse the system, caseworkers are overloaded and have little time to assist clients with finding work or education. According to Stacie Nachtman, beginning in March, caseworkers will no longer have assigned caseloads. The new structure will be that social workers will have caseloads, case managers that handle cash, food stamps, child care, and elderly and disabled medical will not have caseloads. There will be different ‘teams’ that will be assigned to working on specific situations. For example a person calls in to report a change; they will be connected to the Change reporting team. If a person has a review, they will speak with a person on the review/I.R. team. This makes me wonder if people will just fall through the cracks even more.

According to SRS worker Stacie Nactman, “the system is not set up for those who truly need help. For instance, elderly and disabled adults who have worked all their lives and are now retired or unable to work may make too much in social security to be eligible for more than $16 a month in food assistance. Yet these same people are paying higher medical costs, mortgages, rent, car payments, insurance, and medical insurance premiums. On the other hand, people who have not worked in long time, or are not currently working may come in to apply for assistance and be granted 200 dollars a month in food assistance. These recipients may have their hair done, nails done, brand name clothing, and a brand new car; however, their lack of documentable income makes them eligible for more food assistance than an elderly person who has a documentable income through social security., These elderly or disabled people are getting milk, bread, eggs, and a little bit of meat, and using coupons and counting every penny. However, right behind them in the checkout line, the people with carts full of groceries that include steak, name brand cereal, pop, kool aide, candy, and ice cream are using their food stamps and WIC checks seemingly with no plans to find work and get off of welfare.”

It is clear that the welfare system is putting a huge burden on the shoulders of the taxpayers, and although work programs and education programs have been put into place, the government now needs to focus on who is going to manage these programs, especially since there are not enough case workers to be able to follow up with recipients, making abuse easy. Perhaps this issue will stand out in the trends of future literature on welfare reform.

References

Almanac of Policy Issues. (n.d.). Welfare. Retrieved on February 2, 2012, from

http://www.policyalmanac.org/social_welfare/welfare.shtml.

American Psychological Association. (2012). Making 'welfare to work' really work Improving welfare reform for poor women, families and children. Washington, D.C: Author. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pi/women/programs/poverty/welfare-to-work.aspx.
Cerullo, Jared. (2012). Lawmakers Debate Drug Testing For Kansas Welfare Recipients. Retrieved on February 26, 2012 from http://www.kake.com/home/headlines/Lawmakers_ Debate_Drug_Testing_For_Kansas_ Welfare_Recipients_139281278.html
Krannebitter, Kyle. (2008). Regulate the Welfare Abuse. Retrieved on February 26, 2012, from http://www.articlesbase.com/economics-articles/regulate-the-welfare-abuse-592020.html
McLean, J. (2011). State Welfare Agency Works To Get Handle on Fraud and Abuse. Kansas Health Institute News Service. Retrieved January 28, 2012, from http://www.khi.org/news/2011/dec/01/state-welfare-agency-working-get-handle-fraud- and-/
Milburn, J. (2011). Kansas tightening rules for welfare programs. Associated Press. Retrieved January 26, 2012, from http://news.yahoo.com/kansas-tightening-rules- welfare-programs-000219801.html
Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. (2006). In From Suffrage to the Senate: America's Political Women. Retrieved from http://www.credoreference.com/entry/ghssapw/ personal_responsibility_and_work_opportunity_reconciliation_act_of_1996
Welfare Information. (2012). US Welfare System - Help for US Citizens. Retrieved on January 31, 2012, from http://www/welfareinfo.org/history/.
Welfare Reform. (2010). In Culture Wars: An Encyclopedia of Issues, Viewpoints, and Voices. Retrieved January 28, 2012, from http://www.credoreference.com/entry/sharpecw/ welfare_reform
WELFARE-TO-WORK PROGRAMS. (2009). In Poverty and the Government in America: A Historical Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://www.credoreference.com/entry/abcpga/welfare_to_work_programs

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