Rewards without ‘common sense’

Many working Americans know the drill. Earn your paycheck, pay the bills, do the grocery shopping and – hopefully – have enough leftover for entertainment, eating out and some hobbies.

But these working Americans, living paycheck to paycheck, are starting to feel cheated by the system. Far too many here and across Western New York continue to live off the backs of the working taxpayers.

According to the most recent numbers from August in New York state, there are 5,573 recipients who are receiving assistance in Chautauqua County totaling $1.36 million. In Cattaraugus County, 831 residents receive a total of $243,485. In Cattaraugus County, the number of recipients is about 1 percent of its population. In Chautauqua County, it’s 4 percent of the population.

Believe it or not, for both counties, those August numbers are improvements. Another improvement seen notably in Chautauqua County is its welfare to work program. In January 2012, the rate had plummeted to about 10 percent. This past August, the number continues to climb closer to the state average of 32 percent. It’s currently at 19 percent.

There are, however, many questions regarding the flawed system rewarding those who do not work. During a visit earlier this week by U.S. Rep. Tom Reed to Shorewood Country Club at a joint meeting of the Fredonia, Dunkirk and Westfield-Mayville Rotary Clubs, one small business owner said she feels “abused” by how she pays into the system while those not working reap the benefits of HD TVs and top-of-the-line cell phones.

Reed was sympathetic.

“Take the Farm Bill, for example,” he said, “something that came out of the House (of Representatives) that we dealt with on the food stamp program. I cut $20 billion … out of the $39 billion in cuts in the House bill that dealt with the situation of able-bodied individuals without kids. (It required) those individuals to either go to work, go to a program for an educational degree or certification so that they could be in a position to get a job or even volunteer in their local community to qualify for food stamp programs. To me, that’s a common sense requirement.”

The Congressman noted a recent New York Times piece that mentioned Reed was one of a number of reps in Washington who are working “to destroy poor people.” He said that’s not the case. He just wants those receiving the entitlements to be accountable.

“We went to Washington just for common sense,” he said. “These types of reforms are things that empower people to help them control their own destiny.”

Cuts in SNAP

During a recent visit to speak with a group at the Herbert Star Apartments in Brocton, one of the biggest concerns voiced by area seniors was the cuts planned for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP. In Chautauqua County, more than 13,500 residents receive this aid. However, starting last week, the amount being received has been reduced by about $11 per month per person.

Seniors, those who have served our country and work force, are especially frustrated in the cut. These are not people who are looking for a handout, they are those who contributed a great deal to our communities and economy in the past.

Unfortunately this is becoming a mainstream problem in America. We are penalizing those who are employed and have worked, while continuing to reward those who refuse to do so.

John D’Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call 366-3000, ext. 401.