2013 Symposium: Welfare, Food Stamps, and WIC Are All Programs That Need Reformed, How Can We Do It? Is Welfare Drug Testing Working? Or Is It A Waste Of Tax Payer Money?

Cartwright: Drug test all recipients of these programmes. Utah announced a couple months ago that it saved over $350,000 in the first year that it required drug testing for welfare recipients. Second, let’s have the IRS audit the welfare, food stamp, and WIC programmes. These programmes are rife with fraud and waste. I know of instances where foreign college students here in Orlando are getting food stamps. Really? Why are we giving benefits to foreigners and able bodied college students at that? This is ridiculous! The system is clearly broken and needs to be cleaned up. The welfare progamme was never intended to be a generational programme. And what happened to Bill Clinton’s welfare to work programme? Guess that went by the wayside. We need to get back to some basics here. If you’re down on your luck and you need help, I’m all for that. But I’m not for supporting people because they’re too lazy to work or because they have five kids by five different people. Let’s give people a hand up and not a hand out. Let’s stick to a strict term limit for welfare and foods stamps of say six months. If you can’t find a job in six months, you’ve got a problem. And instead of rewarding people for working the system by having more kids, let’s penalize them. If you can’t feed the kids you’ve got, why would you have more?

The welfare progamme was never intended to be a generational programme. And what happened to Bill Clinton’s welfare to work programme? Guess that went by the wayside. We need to get back to some basics here. If you’re down on your luck and you need help, I’m all for that. But I’m not for supporting people because they’re too lazy to work or because they have five kids by five different people. Let’s give people a hand up and not a hand out. Let’s stick to a strict term limit for welfare and foods stamps of say six months. If you can’t find a job in six months, you’ve got a problem. And instead of rewarding people for working the system by having more kids, let’s penalize them. If you can’t feed the kids you’ve got, why would you have more?

You know what the bigger problem is? People are lazy and have no sense of pride. They have no sense of self-worth. Let’s encourage them to get a job and provide for themselves and their families. Welfare isn’t something that you should want to be on; it should be something you’re on when you’ve encountered a bump along the road in life. You need help; we’ll help. You need a solution; get a job. We need to make sure we have a strong, vibrant economy where if you want to work you can find work. We need to make sure that we remain competitive in the world economy so that we can create jobs.

And then we have the politicians who want to create dependency by giving handouts to constituents. They’re effectively buying votes. So, they create this culture of dependency to keep a certain voting base and in the process they keep people down. They get them in the system, get their handouts, and then they never get out. And why go to work for minimum wage when you can sit at home doing nothing and get a welfare check, housing assistance, a free phone, food stamps, and so on?

I know a lot of people don’t want to end the welfare system as it is. So how about this solution? Let’s round up all the people getting welfare and food stamps and relocate them to Detroit. There are plenty of run down and abandoned neighborhoods in Detroit. In exchange for their welfare check and food stamps, they get to work together to rebuild the run down communities in the Detroit area. And maybe we put these people to work on building roads, cleaning up communities, and guarding the border. Rather than having these people sitting around not contributing, let’s make them earn their keep. If they don’t want to do that, they can leave the program and get a job or join the military. Of course, wait a minute here…the military won’t accept lazy, high, or strung out people.

North Carolina: In order to reform welfare, food stamps and WIC programs, extensive undertakings to revamp existing programs must be put in place to identify truly qualified recipients for any of these programs. To lessen the possibilities of fraud, programs must be administered at the local and state level and funded through charitable, non-profit and volunteer organizations, rather than through funds from the federal government. Only through detachment from federal government supplementation will these types of programs continue to function fairly and appropriately. Any fraudulent access to program monies and services must be eliminated through a strict series of checks and balances that fall back on the recipients themselves. Qualifying conditions for any of these programs should consist of requirements that include: 1. American citizenship status, 2. Screening and proof of employment or involvement with an employment recruiting firm, 3. Place of residence with home visits for verification, 4. Criminal record or recent criminal activity verification, 5. Verification of drug, alcohol, tobacco or other substance use, 6. Recipient responsibility for weekly notification and follow-up with employment searches, job recruitment, job applications, and job placement. Time limits should also be a part of receipt of any benefits. At three and six month’s intervals, benefits and services should be reviewed and checked, once again based on recipient employment searches and job placement. If employment is not found in that period, a recipient must be required to perform work through job training programs, daily labor centers, part-time work, work-study through a vocational, technical or community college, or volunteer work. Public works duties such as trash and litter removal, buildings, grounds and parks maintenance, volunteer time to homeless shelters, veteran’s organizations and hospitals, as well as gathering for recycling centers, participating in community gardening, farmer’s markets and food bank services, etc., should all be part of required duties of welfare recipients who are not in the workforce. Only those who are truly disabled through physical and mental limitations should be allowed to collect benefits on an ongoing basis, and affiliated family members should take responsibility for the care and provision for such family members rather than total reliability on government programs, particularly if benefits are exhausted or have passed the period of expiration. Though the use of illicit drugs has been part of the denial process for receipt of benefits, many state welfare programs include actual drug testing of recipients to determine whether benefits obtained are used to purchase illegal substances. The programs appear to be ineffective, wasteful and discriminatory. The states involved, including Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma and Utah, have reported more outlay for the actual testing programs themselves than what has been recovered in taxpayer-funded welfare dollars. For example, in 2013 the state of Utah spent over $30,000 administering drug tests to welfare recipients. During that time, only 2.6 percent of tested recipients were determined to have used illegal drugs, which is considerably below the national rate of 8.9 percent. Utah initiated the testing program to save the state money, as have other states with similar testing programs, but savings were minimal and again testing costs far outweighed any state savings. Local drug education and strictly monitored treatment programs would benefit welfare recipients suspected of using drugs rather than random testing models. Not all welfare recipients are deadbeats who refuse to work. Current economic conditions, personal and family situations, and psychological factors affect many, but the true focus of any welfare program must be the direct input of the recipient to his or her rehabilitation. He or she must attain the necessary survival skills, job training, and social interaction skills to exit welfare programs and become employed, self-sufficient and productive. Welfare of any kind should always be temporary solution not a permanent lifestyle.

Orlando: The recent efforts to drug test recipients of Florida state benefits was a complete disaster for two very simple reasons. First, drug testing is fairly expensive. Private companies only do it because the insurance costs for not doing so would be much higher, and they only drug test some new hires. Second, it turns out drugs cost money, and that is something that people applying for state assistance do not have in abundance. As a result, the state spent $118,000 on testing in order to withhold $45,000 dollars worth of benefits. Drug testing welfare recipients, it would seem, is little more than a subsidy to the diagnostic testing industry. Are welfare and other poverty reduction efforts being abused? Without a doubt, the answer is yes. Is this abuse a significant drain on budgets? That depends on how you count.

The single biggest problem in intelligently discussing this issue is that the size of welfare benefits is discussed in misleading ways. Senator Jeff Sessions, a Republican from Alabama, describes welfare benefits as a $60,000 yearly check to each family below the poverty line. This is true but deceptive. Sen. Sessions is taking the total expenditure by federal and state governments on “welfare spending” and dividing it by the number of people in poverty. The problem is that this item on the budget includes a huge variety of programs, some of which, like Medicare and Medicaid, are extremely expensive, while others, like WIC or food stamps, are very inexpensive. The cash expenditure to needy families (under a program called TANF) is capped at $900 a month, which is supposed to cover housing, food, and transportation. Many high-profile public figures, including members of Congress, have attempted to feed their families on this budget and discovered that it is next to impossible.

There is no one solution to poverty, malnutrition, and the dire straits of joblessness in the modern recession. The first step, though, is to properly identify and clearly define what programs are under discussion. The biggest place of expenditure in “welfare” programs gives medical care to senior citizens. The next biggest is a pension program for the working poor who have retired. Neither of these programs are going anywhere, and programs like TANF and WIC represent very, very tiny slices of the federal budget. The real way to lower the cost of poverty reduction is to lower the costs of poverty with adult education, day care subsidies for working mothers, and public work projects.

South Carolina: The government spends billions every year on programs such as WIC, food stamps and welfare. Each system is needed to help families in hard times. The problem is that the programs do not work properly. People have no incentive to work for themselves. The programs are supposed to be temporary solutions to hard times, but that’s not how they work.

Let’s start with the WIC program. Arguably this is the one government program that works the best. You can only purchase certain foods on this program. No candy, no soda; only fruits and vegetables, cereal, and baby formula. The program is temporary and works to help families with a new child. I believe the program would serve better if they helped with diapers as well, but right now there is no need to reform WIC.

Food stamps are a problem. People can draw food stamps and rarely have to report to inform of changes in circumstances and often lie since there is no follow up. So, they continue to collect food stamps even after they can provide for themselves. I can’t tell you how mad it makes me to stand in line and watch someone buy t-bone steaks, ribs, cases of soda, and candy; only to whip out their food stamp card to pay. This infuriates me! The food stamp program should be limited more like WIC. No candy, no soda, no potato chips, and no high end meats (let’s say over 5.50/lb). This would aide in solving the childhood obesity problem as well. Reform immediately!

Welfare is another problem. People draw a check every month and have no incentive to better themselves and find employment. Why would they when the government is paying them to be at home? I believe people on welfare should have to volunteer so many hours a week at the local soup kitchen or shelter. Childcare will be provided for those who volunteer their time. In the alternative, they should be limited to the amount of time they can draw if they choose not to volunteer. It also should be more like food stamps where their money comes on a card. No cash withdrawals allowed. The card should only work for certain things, so no Blu-Ray’s, no video games—-only shoes, clothes, medicine or toiletries. Reform immediately!

Michigan: Yes. These programs all need to be reformed or stopped. Drug testing is not working. We need to set time limits on these programs. Once the time is up, you then need to go to work. If you report for work, you get paid. Federal, State and local governments all have work to be done. Have you looked at the condition of our post offices and government buildings? We can find the work. This system would not cost the taxpayers anymore as we are using the money that had been paying for food stamps, welfare and Wic.

Washington, DC: The rate of poverty in USA has been steadily rising over the last few years. According to the data from November 2013 provided by US Census Bureau, 16 percent of Americans live in poverty, which translates to about fifty million people. The rate rise is noticeable; it was 11.3 percent in 2000, 12.7 percent in 2004, 13.2 percent in 2008, and 15.1 percent in 2010. However, the experts argue that the current rate would have been even higher if more and more people did not rely on government assistance programs such as Social Security payments and welfare which includes such programs as Medicaid; the Women, Children, and Infant (WIC) program; and Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), among others.

Undeniably, these programs provide much needed help to families in need; however, there is still room for improvement. In 1996, Welfare Reform Act, especially its Welfare-to-Work initiative, provided incentives for people on welfare to find employment. The initiative was successful for millions of people who became employed, but it ended in 2004. Consequently, there are still many people who abuse the system and rely on welfare for prolonged periods of time. As such, it is evident that better opportunities for finding employment for welfare recipients must be created. Also, the bureaucratic machine, through which a person applying for welfare assistance needs to go, can be very confusing and time-consuming. For example, while more people rely on food stamps nowadays, less people use WIC due to insufficient outreach measures and many required steps (physical exam, regular check-ups, vouchers, meeting with nutritionists, etc.). However, WIC assists the most vulnerable segment of population—pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum mothers, infants, and children up to the age of five—therefore, it needs to become more accessible for them. In short, the whole process of applying to welfare needs to be streamlined in order to prevent its abuse and increase its effectiveness.

One of the other programs, namely, the requirement of drug testing for welfare recipients also seems to backfire. Many people thought it to be a good idea because, in theory, it would prevent misuse of welfare funds by drug addicts. However, as many as 75 percent of drug users are, in fact, employed and do not receive welfare and the majority welfare recipients are not drug addicts. As such, much more money is spent on testing the welfare applicants than saved by denying benefits to a small number of confirmed drug users. Not only that, but drug testing is in glaring violation of the Fourth Amendment because it constitutes unreasonable search.

Ideally, the welfare system should help people to provide for such necessities as food, shelter, and medical care in their time of need and enable them to eventually become employed and independent from government assistance. However, it has become cumbersome, ineffective, and expensive for American taxpayers in its current form.

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