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Our Opinion: Base welfare on need, not availability of funding

Our Opinion: Base welfare on need, not availability of funding

News Tribune editorial

October 27th, 2013 in News

We believe welfare benefits should be based on a recipient's need, not an abundance of government funds.

Gov. Jay Nixon erred last week when he withdrew a proposal to tighten work requirements for food stamp eligibility.

His reasoning, essentially, is that government - financed, of course, by taxpayers - is solvent again. He said: "With greater certainty about what the federal funding level for the food stamp program will be after last week's budget agreement, we have made a determination that the appropriate course of action is to maintain the policy that is currently in place."

The level and/or continuity of federal funding is the wrong criteria.

By way of background, since 2009 the state has been operating under a waiver of specified federal work requirements for able-bodied adults without children who otherwise qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

In Missouri, the program is financed by the federal government, but administered by the state.

In response to recent financial uncertainty at the federal level, the Missouri Department of Social Services had proposed tightening the eligibility requirements for the SNAP program. The work requirement would be waived only in counties where the unemployment rate exceeded 10 percent, which translated into few counties. Elsewhere, adults who received benefits would have been required within three months to find a job working at least 20 hours a week or enroll in a federally approved job-training program.

According to an Associated Press story: "About 915,000 people received food stamps in August ... Officials have estimated Missouri has about 58,000 able-bodied adults between the ages of 18 and 50 without dependents who receive federal food stamp benefits."

We're not advocating needy people go hungry, but recipients who are capable of working should do so.

When welfare benefits are channeled to people who are not in need, immeasurable harm is done.

First, hard-working taxpayers are cheated.

Their justified anger overflows into wholesale resentment toward all welfare recipients, resulting in attitudes that the entire welfare system is rife with fraud and abuse.

As a consequence, faith in government erodes and people who have honest, genuine needs suffer.