"Our Costly Dilemma" - Edgar (Ed) May - Buffalo Evening News
“Newburgh, N. Y., June 26 — Right wing activists in this small upstate community moved one step closer to criminalizing the welfare system by passing a 13-point plan which would begin welfare reform by forcing new applicants to undergo a police interrogation complete with fingerprinting. Hence forward, new applicants to welfare in this community will be treated ‘like immigrants.’ ” Is this a news item from the future of the “tea party” movement? It might sound like it. But actually it is a brief synopsis of a story that appeared in 1961. The “relief revolt” helped bring attention to the work of one local reporter who gained national fame for his analysis of the welfare “dilemma.” Fifty years ago, The Buffalo Evening News published the results of a six-month investigation of welfare in Erie County conducted by News reporter Edgar May. May worked undercover as a caseworker for the Erie County Department of Social Welfare in order to gather research for the 14-part series entitled, ”Our Costly Dilemma.” Five decades have passed since the Pulitzer Prize-winning series was published, and yet our “welfare dilemma” appears to be as costly — and divisive — as ever. The year of publication, 1960, seems to have been a high water mark for American optimism, in retrospect. The problem of welfare dependency seemed one that could be contained, if not entirely solved.
Some Ways to Lighten The Burdens of Welfare
Spend money to save money? In isolated experiments across the nation, the question has been answered. By spending welfare tax dollars you ultimately save them. For Erie County, saddled with a near $30,000,000 annual relief bill, many answers are available.
Welfare Not a Bonanza For Those Truly in Need
"I'm wasting my time working. I'd be better off on welfare." The man holding the steaming cup of coffee could have been your neighbor, the worker at the next machine or the bus passenger sharing a seat. What he said is repeated often in the mounting public distress over high welfare costs. It is the echo of revelations of laxity, chiseling, laziness and dishonesty. It is also wrong. Because a man would be better off "on the welfare" only if he wanted to feed and clothe each of his children for less than a dollar a day.
Worried About the Rent? It's More Than $7 Million
The Erie County Department of Social Welfare has fixed rent ceilings it is willing to pay for welfare recipients. However, because of housing shortages in Negro neighborhoods, exceptions frequently are made. A single caseload may have between 20 and 30 exceptions.
Medical Costs Are Major Factors In Our Ailing Welfare System
Every day in Erie County there are scores of men, women and children sitting in doctors' waiting rooms. When they come out their bill will be sent to you - the taxpayer.Today, too, there are hundreds occupying public and private hospital beds. When they are discharged the statement will be sent to you - the taxpayer.
Major Welfare Problem Is Hiring, Keeping Staff
Suppose where you work that half the personnel would leave every year. Could your office, factory or business operate efficiently?This is one of the major problems facing public welfare today in Erie County and across the state. Last year 68 of 121 caseworkers left the county welfare service.
Welfare Fraud Carries Only Minimum of Risk
If a man picked your pocket today, most likely he'd go to jail.But if he taps your wallet via the Welfare Department route, the chances are that he'll never see the inside of a cell.
Welfare Records Stained With the Blot of Cheating
Tony has received public assistance almost all of his adult life. His son was on welfare in Erie, Pa. A daughter, living at home now, gets monthly Aid to Dependent Children checks for herself and Tony's grandson. Here are some excerpts from his relief history: 1932 - Victor found man had a car licensed in his grandmother's name. Victor knows that the man drives car and is out nights with it. Man doing window washing but denies it.
Some Malingerers Take Long Rides on Relief
Joey P. had been on welfare for a month. He filled out job applications at half-a-dozen Buffalo plants, hitched a ride to the Niagara Power Project and visited the N.Y. State Employment office regularly. What he told me, as a caseworker for the Erie County Department of Social Welfare, could almost be a recording of what other workers hear repeated day after day, week after week. In many cases its true. But when it comes from men who have a two or three-year relief ride, then it sounds as if the needle got stuck.
Storm Center of Relief: Dependent Children's Aid
In New York City, for example, ADC in 1958 supported 54,000 illegitimate children.On the other side of the coin the question is often put this way: What do you propose to do? Let these children starve because of the mistakes of their parents?
Families Shirk Legal Duty To Take Care of Their Own
In Erie County today and in other New York counties, there are thousands of men and women who weekly deduct part of their take home pay and give it to a needy parent, an elderly aunt or children whose early marriage is being threatened by financial shoals.But there are others whose charity never began at home or anywhere else.
Many Families on Relief Permanent Public Wards
As a group, many of the relief recipients have become a dependent society. During the three months I was a caseworker I gave your tax dollars to children who are fourth-generation welfare cases."Don't let them save you," was the advice I received when I first started. "Some of these people, you'll find, know more about welfare than all of us. They've got every angle."
Relief Workers Caught in a Jungle of Red Tape
In a gray filing cabinet in the office of the Erie County Welfare Department where I worked there are supplies of forms that include a list of 65 different ones most frequently used by caseworkers.Each, used in duplicate or triplicate, serves a particular function in the paper empire that has grown with the administration of public welfare.
Staff Stretched Too Thin, Welfare Poorly Policed
"If I had the time I could close 20% to 30% of my cases."This statement by a caseworker in the Erie County Department of Social Welfare focuses on one of the major welfare problems. It means that one caseworker, giving away between $15,000 and $18,000 a month, could come up with a possible saving of $30,000 in one year - if he had the time.
I-"Our Costly Dilemma: Inside Welfare: Close-up of a Staggering Problem" - Ed [Edgar] May - Buffalo Evening News
Penetrating Look at Costs, Cases Yielded by News' 6-month Study
Every minute your clock ticks, New York State Welfare costs average $1075. Each day, the relief cash register totals about $1,547,945. And when the calendar reached Dec. 31, 1959, the bill for helping the needy in New York State stood at a single-year record of $565,000,000. For three months this writer spent some of that money as a caseworker for the Erie County Department of Social Welfare.