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6 welfare myths we all need to stop believing

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6 welfare myths we all need to stop believing

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Pastora Spraus organizes her pocketbook after paying for groceries with an EBT card in West New York, N.J.
IMAGE: AP PHOTO/SETH WENIG/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Stigma runs deep when it comes to government programs designed to aid low-income individuals and families.

Need-based assistance in the U.S. — such as Women, Infants and Children (WIC), theSupplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) — is often subject to public scrutiny, causing those who receive it to feel shame.

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But it's all due to the misconception that these programs reward the undeserving, allowing people to "work the system" while rejecting the common (yet highly unrealistic) "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" values of our society. Welfare recipients are also often assumed to share a range of undesirable characteristics, most of which have racist and classist undertones.

These stereotypes simply aren't true. We need to dispel the myths surrounding government benefits so we can truly understand the value of welfare, the humanity of those receiving it and the improvements that could be made to better support those in need.

Below, we explore six common welfare myths, which you can consider thoroughly debunked.

Myth 1: People on welfare are unmotivated and not working.
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Welfare recipients are often characterized as lazy, simply waiting for the next month's benefits to roll in. But nearly 73% of people receiving public benefits are members of working families.

Some programs, like TANF, actually operate under the expectation that families are working but need temporary assistance to become financially stable. Many argue the problem is really income inequality, which leaves minimum wage earners struggling to afford basic needs, and therefore reliant on public assistance.

Viewing people as morally responsible for their own situations "obviously ignores the systemic inequalities in the economy and polity that make people poor in the first place," independent scholar Gwendolyn Mink, who authored Welfare's End and several other works on public assistance programs, tells Mashable. "The kind of income inequality that is in the system puts especially women of color at the lowest end of the earning spectrum, which is a sentence of abject poverty."

Even though welfare recipients are in the labor force, Mink explains, they aren't earning enough money to support a family and provide food security for their children while at the same time pay bills, such as rent and utilities.

Myth 2: Welfare recipients are mostly people of color.

This myth is dripping with racist assumptions about the lives of people of color, but it's also fundamentally untrue.

In reality, approximately 40% of SNAP recipients are white, making white people the largest racial group on food stamps. When it comes to TANF recipients, approximately 30% are white, 30% are Latino and 30% are black, with several other racial groups making up the remaining 10% of recipients.

Considering systemic inequalities that put people of color behind white people in terms of wage earnings, this somewhat even distribution of need-based aid is actually concerning. Due to racism in the wage system, people of color should theoretically receive more governmental assistance. Yet, those who need welfare programs often don't have access to them — which is the real issue.

"Only 27% of families who need welfare, who are in poverty [and] who qualify for welfare … actually receive it," Mink says. "Most people who need it don't get it. The law is so cruelly structured to incentivize non-participation or to actually exclude participation."

Myth 3: Undocumented populations are stealing welfare benefits from citizens. This isn't just false — it's impossible. Undocumented populations are ineligible for all welfare programs, except emergency medical care.

"It's illegal to afford public benefits of the TANF or food stamp variety to undocumented immigrants ... who have not been in this country for a situated amount of time as legal residents," Mink says.

Even for immigrants who are now legal residents, federally funded programs have strict criteriafor participation. For example, food stamps are only available to immigrants with legal status who have lived in the country for five years, are receiving disability-related assistance or are under 18 years old.

Some programs also allow states to make their own guidelines for immigrant populations, leading to disparities in assistance from state to state.

"The TANF law permits states to bar any immigrants all together, if they wanted to," Mink says.

Myth 4: Countless "welfare queens" are working the system's loopholes.

In any debate of welfare, you'll often hear stories of the "welfare queen" — a racialized term used to describe women who are accused of cheating the system to gain maximum benefits.

Her origin can be traced back to a Ronald Reagan campaign rally in 1976, where the former president said, "In Chicago, they found a woman who holds the record. She used 80 names, 30 addresses, 15 telephone numbers to collect food stamps, Social Security, veterans' benefits for four nonexistent deceased veteran husbands, as well as welfare. Her tax-free cash income alone has been running $150,000 a year."

But the reality of the undeserving welfare queen is not the rule — it's the exception. Mink says it's unreasonable to make judgments based on "one bad apple in every bunch."

It's also difficult to work the system with the goal of becoming that bad apple. WIC and SNAP are full of restrictions preventing the use of coupons for monetary gain, while TANF is only available for five years within a person's lifetime.

Myth 5: Once a person goes on welfare, they'll freeload off it for years.

Eligibility requirements prevent government aid recipients from getting benefits if they don't demonstrate dire need. TANF programs, for example, have a federal lifetime limit of five years.

"You might be on consecutively for five years and fall off," Mink says, "but if you fall into dire straits five years from now, forget it. You can't get back into the program."

As a result, these requirements often prevent some people from accessing the support they need. For instance, the federal government's food stamp cuts enacted at the end of 2014, which included tighter eligibility restrictions, had experts predicting severe hardships for the nation's poorest by 2016.

Welfare offers basic support to provide families with the bare necessities, if even that. Many families on welfare are simply looking to use government assistance as a way to build up their finances during tough times, with the goal of getting back on their feet.

"Nobody wants to stay on welfare if they can get a decent job with decent wages with decent working conditions," Mink says.

Myth 6: Welfare programs are eating up valuable tax dollars.

A recent study from UC Berkeley found that public assistance programs cost taxpayers $152.8 billion every year (indicating a need for better wages). While this is a sizable chunk of cash, it isn't even close to the amount poor families need.

Benefits per family are minimal, still leaving many scrambling at the end of the month to afford their expenses. As of late 2014, the average monthly food stamp benefit came in at $133.07 per participant. Though TANF benefits can fall anywhere between $200 and $1,000 per family, the average monthly amount of assistance per recipient families was $392 per month in 2010.

"Are people as concerned about how the military spends their tax dollars or how much money we give to Amtrak?" Mink says. "A very small percentage of the federal budget is consumed by welfare spending..."

Your tax dollars aren't going to waste. These programs are helping families survive, not thrive.

Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.

http://mashable.com/2015/07/27/welfare-myths-debunked/?utm_medium=feed&utm_source=rss

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I don't understand why anyone should be shamed for being down and out. I'm sure many of those who shame them are losers in so many ways and probably they only do it to make themselves feel better about their own petty lives.


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Seattle’s $15 minimum wage law is supposed to lift workers out of poverty and move them off public assistance. But there may be a hitch in the plan.

Evidence is surfacing that some workers are asking their bosses for fewer hours as their wages rise – in a bid to keep overall income down so they don’t lose public subsidies for things like food, child care and rent.

Full Life Care, a home nursing nonprofit, told KIRO-TV in Seattle that several workers want to work less.

“If they cut down their hours to stay on those subsidies because the $15 per hour minimum wage didn’t actually help get them out of poverty, all you’ve done is put a burden on the business and given false hope to a lot of people,” said Jason Rantz, host of the Jason Rantz show on 97.3 KIRO-FM.

The twist is just one apparent side effect of the controversial -- yet trendsetting -- minimum wage law in Seattle, which is being copied in several other cities despite concerns over prices rising and businesses struggling to keep up.

The notion that employees are intentionally working less to preserve their welfare has been a hot topic on talk radio. While the claims are difficult to track, state stats indeed suggest few are moving off welfare programs under the new wage.

Despite a booming economy throughout western Washington, the state’s welfare caseload has dropped very little since the higher wage phase began in Seattle in April. In March 130,851 people were enrolled in the Basic Food program. In April, the caseload dropped to 130,376.

At the same time, prices appear to be going up on just about everything.

Some restaurants have tacked on a 15 percent surcharge to cover the higher wages. And some managers are no longer encouraging customers to tip, leading to a redistribution of income. Workers in the back of the kitchen, such as dishwashers and cooks, are getting paid more, but servers who rely on tips are seeing a pay cut.

Some long-time Seattle restaurants have closed altogether, though none of the owners publicly blamed the minimum wage law.

“It’s what happens when the government imposes a restriction on the labor market that normally wouldn’t be there, and marginal businesses get hit the hardest, and usually those are small, neighborhood businesses,” said Paul Guppy, of the Washington Policy Center.

Seattle was followed by San Francisco and Los Angeles in passing a $15 minimum wage law. The wage is being phased in over several years to give businesses time to adjust. The current minimum wage in Seattle is $11. In San Francisco, it’s $12.25.

And it is spreading. Beyond the city of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors this week also approved a $15 minimum wage.

New York state could be next, with the state Wage Board on Wednesday backing a $15 wage for fast-food workers, something Gov. Andrew Cuomo has supported.

Already, though, there are unintended consequences in other cities.

Comix Experience, a small book store in downtown San Francisco, has begun selling graphic novel club subscriptions in order to meet payroll. The owner, Brian Hibbs, admits members are not getting all that much for their $25 per month dues, but their “donation” is keeping him in business.

“I was looking at potentially having to close the store down and then how would I make my living?” Hibbs asked.

To date, he’s sold 228 subscriptions. He says he needs 334 to reach his goal of the $80,000 income required to cover higher labor costs. He doesn’t blame San Francisco voters for approving the $15 minimum wage, but he doesn’t think they had all the information needed to make a good decision.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2015/07/22/seattle-sees-fallout-from-15-minimum-wage-as-other-cities-follow-suit/


Education is what you get from reading the small print. Experience is what you get from not reading it.



The Liberal mind is where logic goes to die!






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I believe there many who abuse the system, but may don't and there is no way of telling. It doesn't matter anyway because it's on them in the end.

I've know a few people over the years who were down and out and they were ashamed to use food stamps and receive any type of assistance. And it was a matter of survival for them. I think that they feel people looked down on them, whether it was the cashier at the supermarket or the customers in line behind them. There is ample evidence of that mentality right here. You know, like people should only eat rice and beans when they receive food stamps, whatever is the lowest cost way to stay alive. There are people who have done everything in their power to get off of public assistance as soon as possible. I think the programs were intended to help people out in times of need, not to be a livelihood for multiple generations.But that's another discussion in itself as there are many reasons why it has become that way for so many.


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I believe there many who abuse the system, but may don't and there is no way of telling. It doesn't matter anyway because it's on them in the end.

You are correct, there are many who do not abuse the system, but the media and the holier than thou VJ crowd likes to focus on the abuse. Funny they don't feel that way about guns or alcohol. Some people drink and drive, so no one should be allowed to buy alcohol. The majority of gun owners are responsible people, so lets take away all guns because of the bad apples.


R.I.P Spooky 2004-2015

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You are correct, there are many who do not abuse the system, but the media and the holier than thou VJ crowd likes to focus on the abuse. Funny they don't feel that way about guns or alcohol. Some people drink and drive, so no one should be allowed to buy alcohol. The majority of gun owners are responsible people, so lets take away all guns because of the bad apples.

You were doing pretty good til this line Spooks. No one here on VJ has this view, not even MBD.

No Sheep for you!!

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The problem with welfare is that too many people believe it is a right they are owed.

Too many incentives not for a woman to work and sit at home and have kids and be single and collect welfare.

I had a couple section 8 houses in South Dallas, It was the same story. Girl with a handful of kids living for free, and of course the boyfriend lives with them, Which is not allowed.

No they shouldn't. My mother was on food stamps when we left my father. She had to use them to supplement the loss of income. I remember the look of shame when we had to go shopping and she pulled them out. The cashier gave us this crazy look like she was beneath her or something. I remember wanting to slap that smirk off her face. I was 13 at the time and I can still remember that day.

It's like the people in this country really think the poor should be subjected to sub human treatment. No one want to live in the slums, no one...

People are not poor anymore in USA. You want to see poor go to a 3rd world country and check out a true poor family....

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I've know a few people over the years who were down and out and they were ashamed to use food stamps and receive any type of assistance. And it was a matter of survival for them. I think that they feel people looked down on them, whether it was the cashier at the supermarket or the customers in line behind them. There is ample evidence of that mentality right here. You know, like people should only eat rice and beans when they receive food stamps, whatever is the lowest cost way to stay alive. There are people who have done everything in their power to get off of public assistance as soon as possible. I think the programs were intended to help people out in times of need, not to be a livelihood for multiple generations.But that's another discussion in itself as there are many reasons why it has become that way for so many.

In California you now get an EBT card which is basically a debit card so no one other than holder knows the source of the money. In a recent study they found people using theses cards at tattoo parlors, strip clubs, sports books in Vegas- woo hoo!

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I've know a few people over the years who were down and out and they were ashamed to use food stamps and receive any type of assistance. And it was a matter of survival for them. I think that they feel people looked down on them, whether it was the cashier at the supermarket or the customers in line behind them. There is ample evidence of that mentality right here. You know, like people should only eat rice and beans when they receive food stamps, whatever is the lowest cost way to stay alive. There are people who have done everything in their power to get off of public assistance as soon as possible. I think the programs were intended to help people out in times of need, not to be a livelihood for multiple generations.But that's another discussion in itself as there are many reasons why it has become that way for so man

Word!


The content available on a site dedicated to bringing folks to America should not be promoting racial discord, euro-supremacy, discrimination based on religion , exclusion of groups from immigration based on where they were born, disenfranchisement of voters rights based on how they might vote.

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In California you now get an EBT card which is basically a debit card so no one other than holder knows the source of the money. In a recent study they found people using theses cards at tattoo parlors, strip clubs, sports books in Vegas- woo hoo!

I am very interested in finding this study, can you locate it for me?


The content available on a site dedicated to bringing folks to America should not be promoting racial discord, euro-supremacy, discrimination based on religion , exclusion of groups from immigration based on where they were born, disenfranchisement of voters rights based on how they might vote.

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