Sunday, May 15, 2011

How we treat welfare recipients

A student paper here about how we treat those who receive assistance.  This reminds me of the lyrics of a song by the Clash from their Combat Rock album (Know Your Rights) in which Joe Strummer sings, “You have the right to food money, provided of course you don’t mind a little investigation, humiliation, and if you cross your fingers—rehabilitation.”
Policy Evaluation
     Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the 32nd President of the United States of America. Under his direction the United States Congress enacted a series of economic programs that are known as the New Deal. The focus of these programs were referred to as the three R’s: Relief, Recovery, and Reform. Relief was for the unemployed and the poor. One law designed to establish programs for relief was the Social Security Act. Under this act the Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program was born. This program provided financial assistance to families with children whose income was low or non-existent. Many people felt that this program was a gratuity provided by the government rather than an obligation of society to care for the poor. This mentality has led to the government imposing many restrictions onto those who receive benefits. Today, the AFDC program has evolved into the more restrictive program now known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
     Few people would dispute the fact that rules and regulations need to exist in order to determine the extent of a need and/or the eligibility of those who are seeking services. Those rules and regulations should not violate the rights of those in need; nor should the recipients be made to feel that they are criminals. People who apply for TANF benefits should have the same rights to privacy that other citizens do. Some of the regulations that have been put into place impose a standard of moral behavior on the beneficiaries of these programs. If passed, Illinois House Bill 0011 will mandate the Department of Human Services to conduct random drug tests on TANF recipients. The fourth amendment of our constitution protects us against unreasonable search and seizure. Mandatory drug testing is considered a search. Employers who impose mandatory drug testing can do so when it is deemed that their employee would put the general public at risk if he or she were using drugs. Receiving TANF benefits does not put the general public at risk. Have you ever asked your child, grandchild, or neighbor to pick up a few groceries for you?  If passed, Illinois House Bill 161 will put an end to such niceties for TANF recipients. If this bill is passed TANF recipients who receive food stamp benefits will have to have their photograph placed on the card; barring anyone but that person from using the card. Adult recipients of TANF must sign and follow a “Responsibility and Service Plan.” Recipients cannot have countable assets greater than $2,000.00 or an automobile with value greater than $8,500.00. A family of four would receive approximately $470.00 per month in TANF. This benefit is reduced by $1.00 for every $3.00 the recipient earns from employment. Even with these limited resources the recipient is expected to devise and complete a plan to work their way out of poverty within five years. Elementary schools are given the names of those children whose families receive TANF benefits. These schools are to monitor and report any irregular attendance of the children to the Department of Human Services. What agency is monitoring your child’s school attendance? Recipients are required to work with state agencies to enforce child support. In other words, recipients must identify and help pursue the father of their children in order to receive child support assistance. Failure to comply with these regulations could result in the loss of benefits.    
     The Heartland Alliance reports that the Illinois poverty rate was 13.3% in 2008 and the extreme poverty rate was 6.0%. In October 2008 the Department of Human Services reported that there were 26,675 TANF households in Illinois totaling 62,117 persons. The current Illinois unemployment rate is 9.4%; somewhat greater than the national unemployment rate. It is time for Americans to stop allowing stereotypes and fear to shape the rules and regulations of our social policies. The number of people in need is growing. One of those people could be your parent, sibling, child, or friend. How would you like them to be treated? 

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