Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Use Government Benefits In A Good Way To Succeed

According to a 2012 article written in The Atlantic entitled, “7 Facts About Government Benefits and Who Gets Them,” approximately “55 percent of all Americans, including those who identify as Democrats, Republicans, liberals, moderates and conservatives have received benefits from one of these six federal programs—Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare (TANF), unemployment benefits and food stamps (SNAP).” This number then leaps to 86% of all households in the United States that receive some form of government assistance, when you include programs such as veteran benefits, college assistance, low-cost housing, and child care assistance to this list.

Even in the 21st century, it is often taboo for someone to discuss or disclose their use of one or more of these programs, and many would consider people who utilize these benefits to be lazy or incompetent. However, real statistics reveal that the demographics of people who utilize these government assistance programs spread across all genders, ethnicities, political party affiliations and household incomes. In other words, these programs are not just for elderly, poor people and minority groups. Nonetheless, these programs are crucial resources for helping people in times of financial difficulty.

As the child of a single mother, living with my single grandmother, I learned the importance of these programs to our family’s well-being early in life. Since my mother was a single parent, with three children and made less than a certain annual income a year, we were eligible for TANF and food stamps. Food stamps helped my mother to purchase food for us monthly and allotted a certain amount of money to go towards expenses for my brothers and me each month. Without the assistance of these programs, life would have been much harder for us.
After my mother passed my freshman year of high school, the burden of care fell on my grandmother. Unfortunately, she lost the job she had worked at for nearly 30 years due to downsizing and she qualified for unemployment benefits. Again, without this program’s assistance, I am not sure if my grandmother would have been able to keep a roof over our heads and food in the refrigerator.

I also have a cousin who is single and had a baby by rape. She was still completing high school and only had a part time job at a department store. She was eligible for TANF and food stamps, and as a result taking care of her child as a single mother with a low-income, was made possible. Unfortunately, circumstances like these are realities for many households in the United States, but fortunately we have these government assistance programs to help alleviate some costs for families, provide care for young children, the disabled, the unemployed, those in need of health insurance and the elderly.

Though these programs are in existence, there is still room for improvement and expansion of who is eligible for these benefit programs and how much assistance they can receive. Thankfully, immigrants with children who are U.S. citizens can still apply for these benefits for their children. Permanent residents, refugees and asylees can also be eligible for these benefit programs in some cases (http://www.welcomingcenter.org/immigrants/public-benefits). In some states same-sex marriage couples are eligible for these government benefit programs, but many states have yet to adopt these policies.

Ex-offenders can be refused the opportunity to utilize these resources. However, refusing someone who was just released from prison any initial assistance, and with the government’s permission for almost any place of employment to refuse to hire them—this then increases prison recidivism or re-entry rates. The more people that are in our prison system, the more money taxpayers will have to pay in the long run. Therefore, it would be less expensive to allow an ex-offender to utilize some of these programs anywhere from 6 months to a year, than to deny them and promote recidivism.

However, the federal government does provide assistance for ex-felons through the Work Opportunity Tax Credit or WOTC Program. WOTC seeks to encourage employers to hire those who have difficulty finding jobs. “Employers must hire an ex-felon within one year under this program’s guidelines and in return the employer gets a tax break (http://mygrantadvisor.com/assistance-for-ex-felons/).” The U.S. Department of Labor also has an Employment Information Handbook for Ex-Offenders.

I am glad to see that the Federal government and government regulated institutions recognize the limitations of government assistance programs and are diligently seeking to improve the programs’ policies or at least offer outside resources. In order to continue to improve the availability of government assistance programs, government elected officials, union groups and advocacy groups must continue to identify downfalls within these programs and work towards promoting change. For example communities, unions and advocacy groups can call up their local government representative (i.e. mayor, governor) and request that a bill be proposed for that state to implement the desired benefits. People who have been initially denied from government assistance programs can seek to put in appeals, however, the only downside to this is that appealing is a time consuming process and the person or family can suffer in the meantime.
Realistically, improvements and ratifications to government programs can and often do take years to establish, however, we must continue to utilize our democratic system and push for the services we truly need. As these government benefit programs assist people in need, they ultimately help keep the nation afloat as money can continue to circulate from the government to the families and back into the government and economy.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Why Medicaid is the Solution to your Financial Problems

The difference between an apple and an orange is seen by a first glance, but financial difficulties aren’t always seen when meeting a person. I can speak from experience when explaining the importance of government programs. When things get difficult financially, it’s important to have a system to help people get back on their feet.

Food Stamps gave my mom a way to provide us food while she was trying to get a job. It’s programs like this that have allowed me to see the importance of having something to fall back on for families like us. I have learned quickly how financial burdens can affect somebody. I realize now how different our situation would have been without the governments help.

Healthcare is a must in our society. The benefit and security of the government providing people who cannot afford healthcare is essential. Medicaid is an important resource because gives families the assurance that if they bring in a low income, then their children will still have heath insurance and receive the care they need if they ever get sick or hurt.

Programs like Food Stamps and Medicaid are imperative to our society. Along with the other government programs, they all have one thing in common: the goal of providing somebody with a better future. Nobody ever thinks that they would be stuck in financial difficulties, but things can happen so unexpectedly that it could to happen to anybody. Nobody ever wants to admit that they are struggling, but sometimes people need help financially in order to get back on their feet.

Nothing in life is guaranteed and things can happen in an instant. Government programs can take away a sense of fear people have when something unplanned happens. Our government is suppose to provide security for citizens and through government programs, this goal is achieved.

These programs have provide millions of people with the support and help they needed to get back on their feet, but in order to make these programs as effective as possible, more rules and regulations should be in place. I believe that it is important to make sure everybody who is receiving government assistance is using it responsibly. Government programs are in place to help people get on their feet, so in order to make sure it is helping people, there should be mandatory counseling sessions to help people get off these programs and be successful.

My world would be much different today if the government didn’t have a program my mom could fall back on to take care of our family. Financial troubles are hard to admit to somebody when asking for help, but the programs our government provides to people in need gives hope that these problems will eventually vanish. The national debt keeps growing, but the economy is improving. This can only mean positive things for the future, as people are able to get off government programs. The success of these programs are seen when people are able to provide for themselves and can help others who are in the same situation.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Truth on Food Stamps

Many Americans honestly struggle with the inability to make their paychecks meet their debt. Government programs were established to assist out of work households, single family homes, and those struggling with mental disabilities that are unable to make their paychecks meet the bills. The programs are lifesaving and benefits a lot of people. 

However, the topic of government benefit abuse is a hot topic all over America that focuses on the enormous problem of abuse and an even larger task of fixing the abuse.  The giant question of how to make the programs more effective can have many avenues.   The biggest problem I see living in rural West Virginia is the laziness of individuals receiving the benefits.  Benefits should only be given if the individual is actively making a contribution to their income. Living off of benefits is unacceptable. If America brought back factories we would have a place for these types of individuals to be employed. Not everyone can succeed in college and America is making it so they can choose, College or living off government benefits.   

The benefit should also have a time limit for out of work individuals. This would encourage individuals to seek employment, and then allow a government supplement to meet their needs. The second avenue for improvement is drug testing. It should be mandatory that every adult in the receiving family take monthly drug tests.  This is to clean up some of the drug mess that out of work individuals find themselves drawn to, to make fast money.  Government benefits like WIC is a good example of a beneficial program. It is category specific and income related, for a designated period of time.  I have volunteered at an Outreach programs that supplies food and clothing for individuals in need. Many times men and women came into the Outreach to find free clothing for a job interview. This is an example of someone wanting to take pride in their self and make their situation better. 

If government benefits were on a time limit, more of this type of self-initiation could be seen.  On the other side of the argument, some people have expressed dropping out of High School and living off the “system.” This is the abuse that has many hard working Americans in a state of anger over the lack of screening and mandates.   

This then leads to the argument of manpower to cover the additional mandates.  Unfortunately, fixing this problem will require individual state governments to hire more workers, which then argues they are out of money and cannot afford to hire additional employees. Then they look at the Federal Government for funding and they say we can’t afford to give any more money.  To see programs become effective our Federal government must see the need for stricter policies to be made and to see that the abuse is eliminated. Allowing for quality of life for many Americans to increase and be something they can take pride in.