Fact or Fiction: Only lazy, dependent people use government assistance.

Are people receiving government assistance living the high life, taking the easy road, and raking in the bucks while the majority of Americans “work hard for a living” and pay taxes so these lazy, dependent people can do nothing all day and live off the government? I hear this stereotype day in and day out by people who obviously know very little about the truth. So, I decided to do a little research and provide YOU with the facts. For those of you who don’t know me and those of you who wish you had never known me, lol, due to my political beliefs…here is the TRUTH about government assistance or welfare payment.

Let’s use Texas, ND, and KY as an example. I lived in TX for several years, got my Master’s there, participated in many SCIENTIFIC studies there etc. My home state is North Dakota and Kentucky is where I reside at this time. So, have you ever wondered how much a person on government assistance or the dreaded “welfare” gets every month to live on?  It must be a lot, right, because they drive new cars, wear really nice clothes and eat out all the time. The study I am referencing will show every state, but we will focus on Texas, ND, and KY. I will use the term welfare, even though I hate it, so we all stay on the same page.

First, what is welfare? Welfare payments are determined by how much the person makes in relation to the poverty level. Poverty levels differ per state based on the cost of living.  The payments most often are made in one of two ways:  TANF (the cash a single parent receives to help with costs) and SNAP (food stamps that be used only to buy food items, not toilet paper, detergent etc, just food.)  In the table, contained in this article you will note that the payments are based on need. “The individual states defined “need” as what a person must have to exist: food, shelter, clothing, household supplies, utilities, and personal care items.”

” To receive TANF payments, a family has to pass two tests. First, the family’s gross income could not be greater than 185 percent of the need standard set by the state. Second, the family’s net income (income after taxes and certain other deductions) had to be below the state’s payment standard (the amount the state pays), which in most states was below the need standard. (See Table 7.4.)”  Well what the authors are saying is that the powers that be within the state, use various facts and figures to determine what the minimum monthly income is to live.  So the first test involves reporting any income or sources of support (yes this includes child support) to insure that the person applying makes less than the “need” income that has been determined by the state.  Then their income is looked at again to insure that their income does not exceed the typical TANF payment.  It should be noted that the average need and the average TANF payment are not the same, however we will cover that in subsequent paragraphs.

Just for giggles we will assume the stereotype is a parent, with two children,  because people with no children are not eligible for TANF.  What, you mean someone who is simply single cannot get benefits?   So much for that stereotype. In some cases where the person is disabled, physically, mentally, or emotionally, they may be able to receive SSI, but that is separate from what is commonly referred to as welfare and would affect a person’s eligibility for TANF. This study assumes that the family is made up of three people, an adult and two children. First the state determines what the minimum amount of income is that people need to live: Texas, $1.389.00; North Dakota, $797.00; and Kentucky, $973.00. Now you might be thinking, someone could live on that. Aw, stop right there that is what is needed, not what a person receives, big difference.  As I said previously there is a big difference.

Okay now we have established what a family of three needs in order to live, now let’s see what a family on 3 actually receives! There are lots of categories in this table, however,  I am only going to use a couple, because it becomes quite confusing. The maximum grant (welfare payment) per month that a family of 3 can receive is in Texas, $188.00; North Dakota, $431.00; and Kentucky, $262.00. Now remember this is the maximum grant so wages, child support etc, are subtracted. Ha, you say to me what about other programs. You’re right, if a person is receiving the full welfare grant each month then they are eligible for the maximum food stamp benefit which is in Texas, $313.00; North Dakota, $293.00 and Kentucky, $313.00. So as you can see in Texas you could get a whopping (kidding) $501.00; $729.00 in North Dakota and $575.00 in Kentucky. So much for “living high off the hog”. (Guess we torpedoed that stereotype too.) In general, using data from all the states the average family of 3 receiving the maximum “welfare” payments is getting less than 50% of the identified amount needed to live. Well wait now Lynne, you always say outlying variables could skew the data. True, so the median (this is the middle figure, determined by identifying the total number of states – 50, dividing by 2, placing the states in order of the amount of the least payment to the amount of the greatest payment and identifying the middle payment, which would be the “25th” amount of “welfare” paid. The median in this case is almost the same as the average. This is most often not the case so always check research to see if there are any outlying variables that might skew the data.  It is an old trick used by political parties to manipulate the data into saying what they want it to say.  This blog however, is rhetoric free.

One final comment…Lynne your figures are a bit old. Yes, it is true, but massive studies like this are only done about every ten years and a new one should be coming out. We can extrapolate however based on the figures in this report that the next one will show even a more significant decline in the percentage of the actual “need” vs. the amount of TANF and SNAP that a family actually received.   In the years covered in this story, the amount of “need” received, allowing for inflation etc. actually declines more than 30% over the time period studied. So next time you think people who receive government assistance are living the high life…think again and reread this post.

<a href=”http://www.libraryindex.com/pages/910/Comparing-New-TANF-with-Old-AFDC-ELIGIBILITY-BENEFIT-PAYMENTS.html“>Comparing the New (TANF) with the Old (AFDC) – Eligibility And Benefit Payments</a>

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One thought on “Fact or Fiction: Only lazy, dependent people use government assistance.

  1. Lynne Morris August 25, 2013 at 8:04 pm Reply

    Thanks Lynne. People don’t believe me when I tell them that being on “welfare is NO PICNIC”

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