Nevada welfare benefits cut by new plan
August 20, 2008
CARSON CITY – Nevada welfare officials, facing shrinking funds and growing caseloads, adopted one benefit-limiting plan but sidelined others after being urged to avoid “reprehensible” steps that could hurt children in poor families.
Nancy Ford, head of Nevada’s Division of Welfare and Supportive Services, approved a plan requiring welfare recipients who don’t attend required classes or look for work to “sit out” of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program for three months. The wait had been one month.
But Ford decided Tuesday to reject a proposal to take food stamps from entire households, including children, when the head of household fails to meet requirements such as attending job workshops.
Ford also postponed plans aimed at stopping guardians from spending down assets of their wards to qualify them for Medicaid benefits, and changing the amount of wages counted against people when determining welfare eligibility after they find jobs.
Leroy Pelton, a UNLV professor and activist for the homeless, singled out the food-stamp proposal for criticism, saying, “This is so reprehensible, I don’t know where to begin.” He and other critics said it would punish children in an attempt to change their parents’ behavior.
Ford said the adopted public assistance “sit-out” will encourage welfare recipients to comply with personal responsibility plans that outline steps toward self-sufficiency.
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Federal law requires most public-assistance beneficiaries to meet requirements such as participating in work-related activities for 30 hours per week. States can lose federal grant money if recipients aren’t meeting those requirements.
But some worried that forcing families off public assistance for months at a time would increase homelessness and end up costing communities more.
“This is going to impact all levels of our community, our schools, our emergency rooms, our sheltering systems,” said Terry Lindemann, director of Family Promise, a program that helps homeless families. “Who’s going to take care of those children because their parents are judged noncompliant?”