Archives

The good folks at Think Progress published a story yesterday entitled “Your assumptions about welfare recipients are wrong.” It’s a myth-buster worth checking out as we contemplate the realities that confront so many of our fellow Americans — especially during the holiday season.

“The stereotype of the low-income people enrolled in government programs is that they spend the money on frivolities and are unwise with their budgets. But the data proves otherwise. Families who receive public benefits such as housing assistance, welfare cash assistance, food stamps, Medicaid, and Social Security Income (SSI) for the disabled or low-income elderly have much smaller spending budgets than those who don’t receive benefits and spend a bigger portion on the basics such as food, housing, and transportation, according to an analysis by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

On average, families who are enrolled in these public programs spend less than half of what families who aren’t enrolled spend. They also put a bigger percentage of that money toward food, housing, and transportation, devoting 77 percent of their budgets to these necessities compared to about 65 percent for other families. Meanwhile, they spend less, on average, on some things thought to be luxuries like eating out and entertainment. A family that doesn’t get public benefits spends 4.5 percent of its budget on ‘food away from home,’ while a two-parent family who gets benefits spends 4 percent of its budget on eating out and a single parent spends 3.6 percent. ‘Food away from home spending was higher in both dollar amount and percent of total spending among families not receiving assistance,’ the report notes. Families who don’t need assistance also spend more on entertainment in both dollar and percentage terms and devote more of their budgets to ‘other’ expenses.

Read the rest of the story by clicking here.

Drug testingThe General Assembly returns to Raleigh on Tuesday to decide whether to override or sustain Governor McCrory’s veto of House Bill 392, the controversial and costly proposal to drug test public assistance recipients and applicants.

In announcing his veto of HB 392 on August 15th, the Governor said: “Similar efforts in other states have proved to be expensive and ineffective at catching drug abusers. It makes no sense to repeat those mistakes in North Carolina.” Advocates for poor people agree. As argued last night in an email alert distributed by my colleague Jeff Shaw at the NC Justice Center:

  • HB 392 shifts the focus from treatment to testing. Research shows that differences in the proportion of public assistance and non-public assistance recipients using illegal drugs are statistically insignificant. However, for those Read More

In case you missed it, civil rights groups have applauded the Governor’s decision to veto legislation that would have imposed a mandatory drug testing regimen on applicants for public assistance.

This is from the ACLU of NC:

“North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory today vetoed H.B. 392, a measure that would have required applicants to the state’s Work First program to submit to costly and invasive drug tests. Gov. McCrory called the measure ‘a recipe for government overreach and unnecessary government intrusion’ that ‘is not a smart way to combat drug abuse.’

Jennifer Rudinger, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, released the following statement:

‘We applaud the governor’s veto of a measure that would have opened the door to costly and unnecessary government intrusions into the physical privacy of North Carolinians who need public assistance to care for their families. Our state and federal constitutions protect the privacy and dignity of all North Carolinians against unreasonable searches, and all available evidence has shown that welfare applicants are no more likely to use drugs than the general public. In fact, the evidence suggests that their rate of drug use is lower than that of the general public. Forcing people in need to pay up front for an invasive test without reasonable suspicion of drug use would have been cruel, costly, and constitutionally suspect. We are very pleased the governor has rejected this measure.’ Read More

Kevin Rogers, an attorney with Action NC, has an excellent opinion piece in today’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer:

“For all the trouble they caused this session, N.C. General Assembly leaders lacked a certain amount of inventiveness.

Almost every bill they introduced was already being considered, or was law, somewhere else.Case in point, during the final hours in Raleigh, the General Assembly passed a foolish bill requiring those applying for public assistance to pass a drug test before they can become eligible. This unconstitutional idea has been tried before in other states, and it makes no more sense here than it did when it was first implemented, and failed miserably, in Florida. Read More

Gov. McCrory intimated during his press conference last week that he would consider vetoing legislation passed during the waning days of session that would require drug tests for public assistance applicants. Today, a trio of civil rights groups will provide him with all the ammunition he needs to do just that.

In a letter emailed yesterday and to be hand-delivered today, the ACLU of North Carolina, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and the North Carolina Justice Center told the Governor that the controversial proposal “wastes State resources and infringes on the constitutional rights of those on public assistance.”

This is from the letter: Read More