Winner critical of state's new $200-per-child welfare benefit increase

George Winner

August 11, 2009

Albany, N.Y., August 11–State Senator George Winner (R-C-I, Elmira) was highly critical today of a plan announced by Governor David Paterson to provide a new $200-per-child payment to welfare and food stamp recipients statewide, which they can access starting today.

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Winner said the governor’s plan was developed with no legislative input or public hearings and lacks the kind of safeguards and oversight that prevent abuse and fraud.  It will allow the state to access $140 million in federal stimulus aid in order to implement what the Paterson administration calls a “back to school” public assistance plan to provide $200 per child to all of the state’s welfare and food stamp recipients.  Recipients can access the new cash grant through a “top-off” on their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card. 

The new welfare grant would be given regardless of whether a welfare or food stamp recipient complied with work and other requirements, and even if a child wasn’t enrolled in school, attending school, or had dropped out.

“It’s a highly questionable government giveaway – no strings attached, no legislative oversight, just visit your local ATM.  What’s happening to accountability in this government?” said Winner, who throughout the past year has repeatedly called on the Paterson administration to crack down on abuse and fraud in the state’s system of Medicaid and other social services programs.  “And it comes at the worst possible time for state and local taxpayers.  How about a new tax cut or job creation program instead of another state giveaway?” 

Paterson announced the plan earlier today as a collaboration with George Soros and the Open Society Institute (OSI).  The new one-time grants will be distributed to more than 800,000 children across the state.  

Winner noted that the new “back to school” plan, which was recently detailed in a confidential memo from the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) to local governments statewide, arrives at the same time the state is facing a $2.1-billion budget deficit.

“It’s not a ‘back to school’ plan, it’s more like New York government going back to a bad past of uncontrolled, irresponsible spending,” said Winner.  “It’s out of touch with the struggles facing New York’s hard-working families and taxpayers.” 

Winner said that 2009-10 state budget included an increase in the basic welfare grant, which increased by 10 percent last month and will rise a total of 30 percent by July 2011.  He said that the budget also provided $2 million to streamline the current Medicaid enrollment process and do away with safeguards like fingerprinting, interviews, and eligibility testing.