Advertising the Dole
The front page of today’s Providence Journal questions why welfare payments would decrease even as the economy worsens, and it looks to me like Cynthia Needham and her “experts” missed one explanation:
Experts attribute the decline to several factors including tighter eligibility, a potential lag time between when the economy falters and when people seek state benefits, and the fact that some newcomers might not know how to find help.
Perhaps it falls under factor #1, but I wouldn’t discount the possibility that those who would seek welfare — as opposed to unemployment payments — have become outgoers from the state. Such an explanation is consistent with recent policy history:
Here in the Ocean State, for example, children were exempt from a cap restricting the amount of time they could receive cash assistance, essentially assuring that their families received some money until they were 18. That could explain in part why in 2007 Rhode Island had the third-highest number of recipients on welfare as a percentage of population in the nation, according to a report in Congressional Quarterly’s State Fact Finder.
That rule changed last year when Rhode Island lawmakers, desperate for savings, voted to limit children to a total of five years of assistance.
The new legislation took effect this past october, cutting upwards of 2,400 children from the rolls that month alone.
At the time, more than half of the enrolled families had been receiving FIP money for more than five years, according to data from the Department of Human Services. One quarter had been on the rolls for more than a decade.
Newly desperate families will still have an aversion to falling into the welfare pool. They’ll rightly take assistance targeted at those who are out of work and looking, but it couldn’t possibly have a positive effect on our society to lure them toward the government dole.