The Providence Journal, as represented by Steve Peoples, still isn’t giving the whole story when it comes to Rhode Island’s Family Independence Program:
Lawmakers spent yesterday afternoon poring through Governor Carcieri’s 101-page plan that would dramatically cut benefits to the poor, while encouraging a “work-first” model and promoting “healthy marriages.”
The governor’s sweeping proposal, if adopted by the legislature in the coming months, would constitute the most significant shift in the state’s Family Independence Program, often referred to as welfare, in more than a decade. Carcieri has even created a new name: the Rhode Island Work First Program. …
Carcieri wants to push low-income Rhode Islanders into the work force immediately, while the current system allows for training and education first. He also wants to cut eligibility for cash assistance from 60 months to 24 months for new recipients beginning July 1. …
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that 28 states and the District of Columbia have 60-month time limits for cash assistance, which is the maximum benefit allowed under federal Medicaid rules. Massachusetts is one of two states that have no lifetime limit, but intermittent caps allowing 24 months of cash benefits during each 60-month period.
For one thing, Rhode Island is one of seven states that continue to give support in some form after that limit (cash for children is one example). For another, Rhode Island doesn’t count time spent on similar programs in other states. And although I can’t find the mention of it, just now, I’m pretty sure we’re unique among those seven states in offer our 60-month lifetime limit in consecutive years.
If the General Assembly were to tweak the governor’s proposal to address these considerations, that’d be a good start. But the people of Rhode Island can’t rally on behalf of reforms when they don’t know the specifics of what they’re reforming.