Editorial: Allen County’s welfare reform pilot deserves a shot


OUR VIEW

The Lima News



Everyone wants a pay raise, even if it’s a quarter an hour, right?

Would you take one if it meant you lost your insurance, though? How about if it meant you couldn’t buy as much food for your family? Or if it meant you lost your childcare?

Of course not. Only a fool would sacrifice these essentials for a slightly bigger check.

This is the challenge faced by those on public assistance. Essentially, you’re either eligible for it based on your income, or you’re not. As soon as you make a little bit more money and cross that threshold, all that gain disappears, as you now have to fund your insurance, food and childcare.

It’s a disincentive to improving your work situation.

Public assistance should be a safety net, not a spider web that snags people and keeps them from moving up in their lives.

That’s why we’re intrigued by the proposals set forth for a welfare reform initiative in Allen County by Job and Family Services and area officials.

Allen County has an estimated 8,000 families or singles on public assistance. Of those, officials estimate 35 to 40 percent are able-bodied and could work. That makes a pool of 2,800 people out there who could be working at higher-paying jobs who aren’t. Instead, the taxpayers pay their bills, while more than 1,500 jobs within 10 miles of Lima remain unfilled.

As is often the case, government created a mess it can’t seem to fix either. Government regulations created this cliff in benefits, where people lose all their services once they make a certain amount. Past efforts to deal with the problem merely pushed people over that cliff, which obviously didn’t work.

The local officials are trying to understand if they need permission from state and federal officials on using Temporary Assistance to Needy families funds that are going unused elsewhere to bridge people into self-sufficiency. One possibility is a pilot program to set aside money for the family to help pay bills until reaching a point of self-sufficiency thanks to merit increases in pay.

We should all welcome the opportunity to get more people off public assistance and on a path to self-sufficiency. We can’t afford a generation of people who think collecting checks from Uncle Sam, by picking each of our pockets, is the way to live.

We urge the people in charge of the federal and state programs to really evaluate Allen County’s suggestion and give it a try. We need a vibrant region with hard-working people earning their own way. They should see the benefits of their hard work.

These bean-counters need to stop justifying their own positions and hard-line stances and think about the real value of their programs. They need to tighten up these safety nets to the point they function as trampolines, launching them into self-sufficiency.

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OUR VIEW

The Lima News

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