SUBJECT: Living the good life off of government benefits
Harumph #11038 from OHIO on
We’ve all heard the line that America is becoming an entitlement society or welfare state, with half of U.S. households now receiving some type of government benefit. But
a CBS 21 News investigation has taken that stat one step further to show you how much people are actually getting for free.
A few years ago, reporter Chris Papst worked with a single mom who had two children. She turned down a raise because she said the extra money would decrease her
government benefits. It was hard to understand why she did that, until Chris started working on this story.
“You do what you have to do as a single mom,” explained Kristina Cogan. “And that’s what I did.”
For Kristina Cogan, a single mom of two, life has been a challenge. Ever since her divorce, she has struggled to simply give her kids what they need.
So five years ago, she walked through the doors of the Department of Public Welfare and applied for welfare.
“What was it like the first time you had to walk into that office?” we asked her.
“It’s scary. You’re depending on other people,” Cogan replied.
“What if that assistance wasn’t there for you?” we continued.
“I don’t know what I would have done, I mean, it’s critical for a lot of people,” Cogan answered.
So critical that Cogan is still collecting. The Lancaster native’s in nursing school and hopes to one day free herself from the system. But she admits living a life off the
government can be comfortable.
“If you’re going to get something for free, are you going to work for it?” Cogan explained. “It kind of like sucks you in. They feel like they are hopeless. They feel like
they have no alternative.
It’s not hard to see why. For this story, CBS 21 researched what government programs are available to a single mother of two making $19,000 a year. What we found
Our family would be eligible for $14,976 in free day care, another $13,400 for Head Start and Early Head Start, $7,148 in housing vouchers, $6,500 for weatherization
projects, $400 to pay heating bills, $480 a year for a cell phone, with an extra $230 for a land line, and $182 in free legal advice.
The family would get more than $6,028 in food assistance and another $6,045 in medical assistance. The mother is eligible for $5,500 in Pell Grants for school with an
additional $12,000 for the Education Opportunity Grant; SMART Grant; and TEACH Grant.
Our family would also get $6,800 in tax credits, and $1,900 in withholding would be returned.
Add it up and this family can get $81,589 in free assistance.
“This isn’t the American dream,” commented Matt Brouillette of the Commonwealth Foundation.
Matt Brouillette is with the Commonwealth Foundation, a government watchdog group which emphasizes a safety net, not a safety hammock.
“When there are taxpayer funded programs that could give you the equivalent lifestyle of a middle-class family, why would you have an incentive to go to
work?” Brouillette questioned.
Government figures show, Pennsylvania’s Welfare Department now takes up a whopping 43 percent of the state’s budget. That number is growing much
faster than revenue.
Brouillette admits in our hyper-politicized culture, meaningful reform is unlikely until there’s a financial crisis, which he says is coming.
“It simply has to. We simply don’t have the money. The only way Congress works, the only way in which Harrisburg works is that we reach a crisis,” Brouillette stated.
“So there’s going to have to be a reckoning.”
“That assessment is probably pretty correct,” Alexander answered when we asked him if the system will likely only be corrected when it crashes.
Alexander says it’s simple math that the current system cannot last. The state’s welfare budget has gone from growing 11 percent a year to seven. But he admits that’s
just kicking the proverbial can down the road.
“Financially we are heading for a cliff and we can’t afford it because we don’t have enough taxpayers,” Alexander stated.
That has been Alexander’s focus, adding more taxpayers by diverting funds to job training and away from free stuff. But he says many necessary reforms can’t be
made, due to regulations from Washington. Plus, the political desire isn’t there because we the people aren’t demanding it.
“We need to look at what we’re spending right now and all the programs that we are offering in the same way you’ve done and we have to say what is absolutely
necessary,” Alexander continued. “If we are not careful, the system will crash. And if it does crash, maybe we will finally wake up.”
“I mean I don’t know what the answer is. I’m telling you there are more issues out there,” Cowan admitted.
“But you think there is an answer?” we questioned her.
Yeah. That’s what your stories about. We need to find it,” answered Cowan.
The benefits we mentioned in this story are not the only ones available. They are just ones that a single mother of two make $19,000 could qualify for.