MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

March 4, 2013

Budget-cutting legislators go after federal aid programs

Speaker says goal should be to get clients out of dependence

— OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – As Republican legislators look for ways to tighten the state’s budget belt, and score points with an increasingly conservative electorate, they are targeting federal assistance programs popular among low-income and needy Oklahomans.

Last year, the GOP-led Legislature passed a measure subjecting welfare recipients to drug tests, and so far this year close to a dozen measures have been introduced targeting assistance programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also called food stamps, and Temporary Aid to Needy Families, or unemployment benefits.

Some of the bills create new requirements for those who receive assistance, like requiring recipients to work more hours, or prohibit certain people, like those convicted of drug crimes or with $5,000 or more in assets, from receiving benefits.

“We should define compassion by the number of people we’re helping get off these programs, not keep on them,” said new House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, who has a bill that would require able-bodied, childless adults under age 50 who receive food stamps to spend a minimum of 35 hours per week engaged in “work activities.”

“I think we also have to recognize that often times government subsidy programs often can lead to dependence, and we need to make sure we’re not perpetuating dependence, that we’re encouraging personal responsibility.”

A fiscal analysis of Shannon’s bill suggests it would cost the Department of Human Services an estimated $18.7 million for the agency to add staff, develop work components and training, and change its system to comply with the requirements. The analysis projects nearly 5,200 recipients could be dropped from the program, saving about $1 million.

The bill could pose additional problems, because the federal agency that administers the program, the Department of Agriculture, has said states cannot change or raise the work limits, according to DHS.

Statia Jackson, 38, an educator in Oklahoma City, said she received food stamps for about two years while working part-time and raising two young children on her own. Jackson, who eventually left public assistance after finding a full-time job, said she would have gone hungry without the benefits.

“Honestly, we would not have eaten,” she said.

Rep. Sean Roberts, R-Hominy, has a pair of bills targeting those who receive food stamps, including a measure that would prohibit convicted drug offenders or those with $5,000 or more in “liquid assets” from receiving benefits.

Roberts declined to speak to the AP about his bills, but his office issued a statement in which he said he introduced the measures at a constituent’s request.

“I have heard concerns from taxpaying constituents that struggle to make ends meet and often have to resort to bologna sandwiches for lunch,” his statement said. “At the same time, there are others who made poor choices resulting in a drug conviction and are currently subsidized by others’ taxpayer dollars.”

1
Text Only
Oklahoma News
AP Video
Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN Raw: Deadly Landslide Hits Indian Village Obama Chides House GOP for Pursuing Lawsuit New Bill Aims to Curb Sexual Assault on Campus Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions 3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand Six PA Cops Indicted for Robbing Drug Dealers Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey Raw: Obama Eats Ribs in Kansas City In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo NCAA Settles Head-injury Suit, Will Change Rules Raw: Amphibious Landing Practice in Hawaii Raw: Weapons Fire Hits UN School in Gaza Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship Broken Water Main Floods UCLA
Poll

Should a federal judge have the power to strike down Oklahoma's ban on gay marriage?

Yes
No
     View Results
Featured Ads
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Stocks