• 43°

Editorial: The reality of ‘welfare’

Important numbers were contained in the Rowan County Department of Social Services’ annual report for 2015-16 — numbers that should help dispel myths about where our tax dollars go when it comes to public assistance.

The local Department of Social Services distributed just over $240 million in benefits and services last year. That’s nearly the same amount of revenue Apple realized selling new apps on New Year’s Day. And $240 million is the value of the shares that Rex Tillerson, former Exxon Mobil Corp. chief executive, plans to relinquish control of if he is confirmed as secretary of state.

Big money.

Who gets the $240 million in benefits in Rowan County, and how much direct cash do they receive on average?

The common belief — stereotype, even — is that single young women are motivated to bear child after child to receive generous cash benefits through the program traditionally thought of as “welfare,” now called Work First in North Carolina. The program provides monthly payments to low-income families with children. But Work First benefits come with strings attached for parents who receive them, such as work requirements and time limits. And only $554,609 in Work First benefits were distributed in Rowan County last year, less than 1 percent of the $240 million total in DSS benefits and services. The majority of the recipients in Rowan were not the young women of the welfare stereotype. Instead, most recipients were grandparents raising young children. The average monthly payment they received was $174.

Food benefits take up a more substantial portion of overall benefits. In Food and Nutrition Services, once called food stamps, $35.7 million was distributed last year to an average of 11,951 households each month. That accounts for about 15 percent of that $240 million.

The biggest program by far was Medicaid. The health insurance program totaled more than $182 million last year, or three-fourths of all benefits provided through the local social services department. The biggest eligibility category was for the disabled and blind, at $76 million. Families and children came next, at $63 million, followed by aged and Medicaid-qualified at $36 million. And so on.

The government safety net could be considered a drain on taxpayers or a lifeline for the poor and disabled. Either way, the programs also contribute significantly to the local economy. Medicaid, for example, sends dollars to hospitals, medical practices and nursing homes. Food benefits contribute to supermarket revenues. The money does not evaporate.

Ideally, of course, everyone would have a job that pays well, solid health insurance and enough money to put food on the table. But this is reality of our economic condition — neither as bad as some people say nor as good as it could be.

Comments

Coronavirus

State to vaccinate medically vulnerable starting March 24

Coronavirus

One new death, 20 new COVID-19 positives reported in Rowan

Kannapolis

Kannapolis man dies in moped crash

Crime

Salisbury Police chief addresses K-9 video, says officer separated from animal

Local

Rowan Rescue Squad sets record straight on fundraising typo

Local

City approves DOT agreement, Salisbury Station project could begin next year

Local

County plans to use vulture effigy, enforce violations to remedy animal carcass feeding problem

Education

Two weeks after ending enhanced protocols, Catawba has no COVID-19 cases

News

Council to hear revised version of Downtown Main Street Plan

Local

Veto override of NC school reopening bill fails in Senate

News

Political Notebook: Majority of likely voters, local legislators support school reopening bill

Coronavirus

COVID-19 vaccinations in Rowan top positives since start of pandemic

Crime

Man faces drug charges after breaking and entering call

Lifestyle

Waterworks schedules 2021 Summer ARTventures

Crime

Blotter: Man faces drug charges after being found passed out in vehicle

Ask Us

Ask Us: What programs exist for litter cleanup?

Business

County begins accepting restaurant grant applications

Crime

Blotter: Salisbury man charged with nine more felony sex offenses

Nation/World

Biden team readies wider economic package after virus relief

Nation/World

Spacewalking astronauts prep station for new solar wings

Nation/World

Cuomo sorry for remarks aide ‘misinterpreted’ as harassment

Nation/World

Trump calls for GOP unity, repeats lies about election loss

Education

Rowan County administers 700 vaccines, with majority going to local educators

Crime

Shoplifting at Walmart presents challenge for Salisbury police