Public Assistance Eligibility

  • Legislation restricting food stamps, welfare advancesBy Michelle Millhollon, May 21, 2014, New Orleans Advocate: “Welfare recipients would be unable to use their federal benefits at liquor stores, nail salons, bars, cruise ships and psychic businesses under legislation that cleared a Senate committee Wednesday. The Senate Committee on Health and Welfare also tackled food stamp recipients. The panel advanced legislation that would cut off grocery assistance for Tangipahoa Parish residents without small children unless they seek an education or job training. House Bill 1176 would put into state law what already exists in state rules. Welfare benefits aren’t supposed to be used for the purchase of alcohol. . .”
  • Rejecting Bloomberg Policies, New York City Will Ease Some Hurdles to Public AssistanceBy Kate Taylor, May 19, 2014, New York Times: “The new commissioner of New York City’s Human Resources Administration on Monday announced a set of sweeping changes that would remove some work requirements and other barriers to receiving public assistance, cheering advocates for the poor and underscoring the sharp change in direction by Mayor Bill de Blasio away from the welfare policies of his predecessor. In the most significant change announced by the commissioner, Steven Banks, adults without children will no longer have to work full-time to receive food stamps. In addition, the city will start a pilot program to allow people receiving welfare up to five excused absences from their employment programs for illness or family emergency. The agency will also create a system to make calls or send text messages reminding welfare recipients of appointments. . .”
  • Missouri Legislature passes bill lifting lifetime ban from food stamps for drug felonsBy Marie French, May 15, 2014, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “An 18-year-old ban that keeps anyone with a drug-related felony conviction from receiving food assistance from the state would be lifted under a bill sent to Gov. Jay Nixon on Thursday. The measure lifts the lifetime ban but imposes a one-year wait after a conviction or release from custody. It also requires that the individual either not need a treatment program, complete one or be on a waiting list. After three drug-related felonies, they would no longer be eligible for food stamps. Christine McDonald, of St. Charles, has been advocating for the state to change the program for more than five years. She is a recovered drug addict who is also blind. She now works to help former prostitutes like herself and runs a charity. . .”

Shift in Government Aid

Poorest Poor Left Out of Government Aid, By Tami Luhby, May 15, 2014, CNN Money: “Many Americans think the poorest of the poor are simply sitting on their couch and collecting an ever-growing government check. Actually, their benefits have been shrinking.Government aid has been shifting to working families just above the poverty line leaving those at the bottom with a very thin safety net. These very poor households have incomes below 50% of the poverty threshold: a single-parent family with two children earning less than than $8,700 a year. This group saw their assistance fall 19% between 1983 and 2010, according to research by Robert Moffitt. . .”

Electronic Benefit Transfer Cards and Fraud – Maine

  • A Maine family’s struggle to beat back welfare fraud allegations, By Luisa Deprez and Sandy Butler, May 2, 2014, Bangor Daily News: “There has been much discussion recently about fraud among Maine residents receiving government assistance. The LePage administration claims fraud is rampant, yet Maine’s attorney general notes that she has prosecuted only 37 Department of Health and Human Services cases in the last three years. Advocates for the poor also disagree, noting that claims of fraud are ill defined and greatly overblown…”
  • Despite federal warnings, program to put photos on EBT cards begins in Bangor, By Mario Moretto, April 28, 2014, Bangor Daily News: “A pilot program intended to strengthen the integrity of Maine’s welfare programs kicked off Monday in Bangor, where some recipients of public assistance funds traded in benefit cards for new ones featuring photo identification. The new project adds a photo ID to electronic benefits transfer cards, which are used like debit cards by welfare recipients. The cards carry funds that can be used to buy food through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, and cash benefits through a program known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families…”

TANF Work Participation – Oregon

Welfare in Oregon: Audit paints detailed portrait, By Yuxing Zheng, April 25, 2014, The Oregonian: “An audit released this month on Oregon’s dismal track record shifting people off of welfare and into jobs offers a detailed look at the effects of the recession. The audit from the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office includes maps and charts that illustrate the downturn’s toll, including a sharp rise in welfare recipients and a reduction in state services. The graphics also show how state cuts contributed to welfare recipients’ low rate of working or looking for work. Oregon welfare recipients spent just 14.1 hours a month on work-related activities in 2010 – the lowest in the nation…”

TANF Applicants – Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania denies 75 percent of welfare applicants, By Kate Giammarise, April 20, 2014, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “The vast majority of applicants for welfare benefits in Pennsylvania are rejected every month, data from the state show, and some blame a 2012 change in state law for sharply increasing the rate at which people are rejected from the program. About 75 percent or more applicants for cash assistance are turned down every month — leaving needy families without aid, advocates say. The change? Beginning in July 2012, state law required applicants to apply to at least three jobs a week — including while their application for assistance is still pending, which can be several weeks. Previously, an applicant would be required to fulfill the program’s work requirement after being approved for assistance, rather than prior to approval…”

TANF Work Participation – Oregon, Maine

  • Oregon welfare audit says state should increase job training, accountability to move recipients into work, By Yuxing Zheng, April 16, 2014, The Oregonian: “An audit of the welfare program in Oregon says that state officials need to boost job training, hold recipients accountable, provide more subsidized child care and make other changes in order to move more recipients into jobs. The audit, released Wednesday from the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office, found the state had made ‘little to no progress’ in moving recipients off of welfare. Program managers failed to hold recipients accountable for missed jobs appointments and sometimes went years without significant contact with recipients…”
  • Maine fined $7 million over welfare work participation rates, By Steve Mistler, April 17, 2104, Portland Press Herald: “Gov. Paul LePage said the federal government will penalize the state $7 million because its welfare cash assistance program doesn’t meet federal work participation standards. The governor’s announcement comes as lawmakers are set to finish their work for the legislative session and after the Democratic-controlled Legislature rejected one of his proposals to align work participation requirements within the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program with the federal law. The administration has previously said that the state was on the hook for $13 million in fines from the federal government because its work participation rate among TANF recipients was far below federal standards…”

Welfare Reform – Maine, Alabama

  • Heavily debated welfare reforms go nowhere in Maine House, By Steve Mistler, April 4, 2014, Portland Press Herald: “Democrats in the House of Representatives rejected three welfare reform proposals by Gov. Paul LePage on Thursday while giving preliminary approval to a significantly altered version of a fourth. Mostly along party lines, the Democrat-controlled House voted 83-61 to approve a proposal to add smoke shops to a current law that prohibits electronic benefit transfer card transactions at certain locations, including liquor stores and casinos. The bill replaces the governor’s proposal to ban EBT card use for bail, alcohol, lottery tickets or tobacco products. Three other proposals, all related to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which distributes cash benefits to about 8,000 Maine families, were rejected in partly-line votes…”
  • Four welfare bills signed into law by Gov. Robert Bentley, By Mike Cason, April 10, 2014, Huntsville Times: “Gov. Robert Bentley has signed into law a bill requiring people applying for cash welfare benefits to first apply for three jobs before becoming eligible. The governor signed SB 115 by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, on Wednesday. ‘People are willing to help those in need, but they also expect those that are seeking taxpayer assistance to attempt to help themselves first,’ Orr said. SB 115 applies to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, which provides monthly cash benefits to low-income families with children. As of December 2013, about 19,000 households in Alabama were receiving TANF. The average monthly benefit was $191…”

Welfare Reform – Louisiana, Maine

  • Louisiana bans welfare benefits usage at lingerie shops, jewelry stores, tattoo parlors, By Renita D. Young, March 21, 2014, New Orleans Times-Picayune: “State welfare officials are tightening the reins on how residents can use cash benefits they receive from assistance programs. Louisiana’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) issued an emergency rule Thursday (March 20) that would eventually ban the use of welfare benefits at jewelry stores, lingerie shops and other establishments that don’t allow customers under 18 years of age…”
  • LePage pushes new legislation to control, curb welfare cash, By Chris Williams, March 23, 2014, Bangor Daily News: “As promised earlier this year, Gov. Paul LePage filed four bills Friday aimed at tightening restrictions on the use of electronic benefit cards used by welfare recipients. Democrats said certain elements of the governor’s proposals raise red flags; they urged him to instead focus his administration’s efforts on enforcement of current welfare fraud crimes…”

Drug Testing and Assistance Programs

Drug tests falter as way for states to deny public aid, By Steven Yaccino, October 25, 2013, New York Times: “With safety-net spending under review around the country, proposals to make welfare and unemployment checks contingent on drug testing have become a routine rallying cry in dozens of states. But the impact of drug-testing measures has been limited. Supporters say the tests are needed to protect welfare and unemployment compensation funds as the nation emerges from the recession. But their enactment has often been hampered by legal challenges and the expense of running the programs, which generally uncover relatively few drug users…”

Low-Wage Workers and Public Assistance Programs

  • Fast-food workers cost taxpayers nearly $7 billion in welfare costs, By David Migoya, October 15, 2013, Denver Post: “Fast-food workers cost taxpayers nearly $7 billion in welfare costs each year, according to a study issued Tuesday by the University of California at Berkeley. That’s because the workers at restaurants such as Wendy’s and McDonald’s are forced onto the public dole from wages that are too low for them to get by, the study found. The study found that about 52 percent of fast-food workers receive some form of public assistance, compared with 25 percent of the general workforce. A similar study was also issued by the National Employment Law project…”
  • Public assistance for fast-food workers costs taxpayers, reports say, By Diane Stafford, October 15, 2013, Kansas City Star: “Low-paying jobs in the fast-food industry exact a multibillion-dollar cost on U.S. taxpayers, according to two national reports released Tuesday. U.S. taxpayers pay about $7 billion a year to support Medicaid, food stamps and other public assistance programs for fast-food workers who earn poverty-level wages, a team of university researchers said in one of the reports…”

Government Shutdown and Affected Services

  • Government shutdown jeopardizes low-income families, Associated Press, October 4, 2013, Patriot-News: “Jacob Quick is a fat and happy 4-month-old with a big and expensive appetite. Like millions of other poor women, Jacob’s mother relies on the federal Women, Infants and Children program to pay for infant formula — aid that is now jeopardized by the government shutdown. Pennsylvania and other states say they can operate WIC at least through the end of October, easing fears among officials that it would run out of money within days. But advocates and others worry what will happen if the shutdown drags on beyond that…”
  • More than 5K Ariz. families denied welfare checks, By Ronald J, Hansen, October 3, 2013, Arizona Republic: “More than 5,000 low-income Arizona families failed to get their welfare checks Thursday in one of the more tangible early effects of the federal government shutdown. The group included people who had been approved for cash assistance, which averages $207 per person, but were not paid because money for the federally funded, state-run program had run out. About 11,000 other families already had received their aid this month, but their benefits could be affected if the political stalemate in Washington stretches into November…”
  • If government shutdown persists, N.H. social services could start to run short, By Ben Leubsdorf, October 3, 2013, Concord Monitor: “Despite the government shutdown, the federally funded safety net for low-income New Hampshire residents appears intact for now. But if the shutdown continues into late October or beyond, state officials and local agencies are worried they’ll begin to run out of money for programs that help supply poor people with food, fuel and child care…”
  • No government reports in shutdown; economists left in limbo, By Ann Belser, October 4, 2013, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “On the first Friday of every month, a host of people are ready at 8:30 a.m. to click into the Bureau of Labor Statistics website. It is at that moment that the bureau releases some of the most economically sensitive data it has: the monthly report on national employment, which includes the unemployment rate, the number of jobs created and the averages of wages and numbers of hours worked. The information regularly moves the financial markets…”
  • U.S. government shutdown claims latest victim: September unemployment report, By Ed Beeson, October 3, 2013, Star-Ledger: “Those who keep watch on how many jobs the U.S. adds each month will have to wait longer for September data. The U.S. Labor Department announced today that its monthly report on the country’s employment situation won’t be released Friday as scheduled, thanks to the federal shutdown. A new release date hasn’t been scheduled, the agency added…”

TANF Application Process – Pennsylvania

As many as 8 of every 10 welfare applicants in 2013 denied by Pa., By Alfred Lubrano, September 16, 2013, Philadelphia Inquirer: “The state of Pennsylvania has denied as many as eight of every 10 applications for cash welfare in 2013, a major increase over previous years, an Inquirer review of Department of Public Welfare figures shows. It’s a pattern being repeated in 17 other states. The increased rate of denials coincides with a change in state law. Before Pennsylvanians apply for welfare, they now must seek at least three jobs and document their efforts…”

Public Assistance Programs – Oregon

State officials struggle to reduce need for welfare, food stamps, By Yuxing Zheng, September 8, 2013, The Oregonian: “Jennifer Noonan sits outside behind her apartment on a recent weekday afternoon watching her two young children and their neighborhood friends push each other around in circles in a toy car. Noonan, 23, is a single mother who hasn’t worked since she quit her job two years ago as a play attendant at Fred Meyer. She and her children, Taima Willeto, 5, and Wenona Willeto, 3, live on $523 a month in food stamps, $506 a month in cash assistance for needy families, and they’re also on the Oregon Health Plan. They live in a two-bedroom apartment in east Portland that’s paid for largely through a federal Section 8 housing voucher, with Noonan paying $33 a month…”

Jobs Opportunity and Basic Skills program – Oregon

More than half of public assistance recipients in job-training program found employment, report says, By Yuxing Zheng, August 8, 2013, The Oregonian: “Fifty-nine percent of public assistance recipients participating in a job-training program were able to find work, a recent report found. Of 574 participants who finished the program by June 2012, 339 found jobs, the report said. Reliance on public assistance, however, continued for many past participants in the program. The success of such job-training programs is key as state officials struggle to help needy individuals find jobs and get off — and stay off — welfare…”

Drug Testing and Assistance Programs – North Carolina

Revised proposal still may deter welfare recipients, By Annalise Frank, July 8, 2013, Charlotte Observer: “An effort to require all welfare recipients to pass a drug test to qualify for benefits that passed the Senate earlier this session has been given a facelift, but advocates for the poor say it’s still an ugly bill. House Bill 392 requires county Social Services employees to do background checks on all applicants for Work First benefits – the state’s welfare program – and food stamps to ensure they’re not parole or probation violators, or have outstanding felony warrants. It also requires drug testing of any Work First recipient suspected of being a drug user. That provision is a step back from a bill the Senate passed in April that required drug testing for all Work First applicants. Worries over the legality of the Senate bill led lawmakers in the House to insert a new version of the testing requirement into the background checks bill…”

TANF Programs – Kansas, Alabama

  • Rules tighten on TANF recipients, By Scott Rothschild, May 1, 2013, Lawrence Journal-World: “Low-income mothers in Kansas will have to participate in a work program sooner after giving birth to receive cash assistance, according to new rules by the Kansas Department for Children and Families. The changes will ‘bring expectations more in line with what the expectations are in the private sector, since that is what an employee can expect to receive from an employer,’ said Angela de Rocha, a spokeswoman for DCF. The changes deal with a program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families…”
  • Committee approves welfare bills to drug test some recipients, prohibit purchases of alcohol, tattoos and tobacco, By Kim Chandler, May 2, 2013, Birmingham News: “The House State Government Committee today approved a bill to drug test welfare recipients with a history of drug offenses. The committee also approved another bill to prohibit people from using welfare benefits to buy booze, cigarettes, lottery tickets or advice on the psychic hotline. Both bills now move to the floor of the House of Representatives. The bill by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, would prohibit recipients from using benefits to purchase alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, lottery tickets and from using those benefits in bars, casinos, tattoo facilities, psychic parlors or strip clubs…”

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families – Tennessee

Critics fear TN bill tying welfare to grades puts kids in harm’s way, By Heidi Hall, April 10, 2013, The Tennessean: “Children in Tennessee could become the first in the nation to determine whether their families receive full welfare benefits — they fail a grade, and the state yanks 30 percent of their cash payouts under a bill the state Senate will take up Thursday. The bill’s sponsor says it’s actually aimed at parents, who can regain benefits after their children fail. They would do that by attending parenting classes or teacher conferences or by enrolling their kids in tutoring or summer school. But in the end, the folks who make pass-or-fail decisions are students and the teachers who grade them. There are no data on how the plan might work because no other state has tried it. But some educators and parents already fear what will happen to children in unstable homes who cost their parents money…”

Drug Testing and Assistance Programs – Texas

Bill to drug-test welfare applicants approved, By Chuck Lindell, March 26, 2013, Austin American-Statesman: “The Senate Health and Human Services Committee unanimously approved a bill to implement drug testing for welfare applicants after changes were made to ensure that benefits for children would continue despite a positive drug test for a parent. Benefits would be cut off only for the adult who tests positive for drugs, said the bill’s author, Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound. A second positive test would cancel the adult’s benefits for one year, though Temporary Assistance for Needy Families could be reinstated after six months with proof of completion or enrollment in a drug-rehabilitation program. A third drug test would produce a lifetime ban from welfare benefits, Nelson said…”

Aid to Dependent Children Program – Nebraska

  • Lawmakers consider increase in state financial aid to families, By Martha Stoddard, March 6, 2013, Omaha World-Herald: “It’s been 25 years since Nebraska last bumped up monthly payments for parents and children receiving state assistance. On Tuesday, State Sen. Kathy Campbell of Lincoln told colleagues on the Health and Human Services Committee that the time has come for another increase. She cast the issue as a part of solving the state’s child welfare problems…”
  • Legislative committee hears proposals that would benefit low-income families, By JoAnne Young, March 5, 2013, Lincoln Journal Star: “Nyatiem Tuty, 29, a single mother of one young boy, nervously faced the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday. She told senators she lives with her mom in a Sarpy County apartment and receives government assistance, including food stamps, Medicaid and bus vouchers…”

Public Assistance and Drug Testing

  • Kansas bill requiring drug testing for unemployment, welfare advances, By Brent D. Wistrom, February 25, 2013, Kansas City Star: “State officials would require drug tests of any Kansan they have reason to believe may be using controlled substances and also getting unemployment or welfare benefits under a bill a Senate panel advanced Monday. Under the proposal that is now poised for a vote in the Senate, welfare and unemployment recipients who fail a urine drug test would lose state cash assistance until they complete a substance abuse treatment program and job skills training. They would then be subject to periodic tests…”
  • Indiana House backs drug tests of welfare recipients, By Mary Beth Schneider, February 26, 2013, Indianapolis Star: “Indiana welfare recipients would face drug testing, and the possible loss of benefits if they fail to stick to treatment, under a bill that passed the Indiana House Monday. House Bill 1483, which passed 78-17 and is now headed to the Senate, is part of a growing nationwide movement among states trying to ensure that those who receive tax dollars because they are poor don’t spend them on illegal drugs…”
  • Temporary ban on Fla. welfare drug testing upheld, By James L. Rosica (AP), February 26, 2013, Houston Chronicle: “A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld a temporary ban on a law requiring drug testing of Florida’s welfare recipients, prompting Gov. Rick Scott to say he’ll now appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled that a lower court was right to temporarily halt enforcement of the state’s drug-testing program. The opinion said the state of Florida hadn’t shown a ‘substantial special need’ for a mandatory testing program with no suspicion of an individual’s drug use…”