The Price of Poverty

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Douglas Lasdon, executive director of the Urban Justice Center, reacts to Governor Paterson's proposal to increase the monthly welfare grant for the first time in two decades. Keith L.T. Wright , New York State Assemblyman 70th District and chairman of the social services committee, says increasing the monthly welfare grant is essential, particularly in bleak economic times.


Douglas Lasdon and Keith L.T. Wright

Comments [12]

Terry Pratt

Re: "poor people do not pay more for food. how do you back up that statement?"

In general, poor neighborhoods are underserved by supermarkets and discount grocers. This is a business decision and should not surprise anyone.

At the same time, small mom-and-pop stores often exploit the unmet market opportunity with limited offerings at high prices. These stores are also have at best a limited selection of fresh fruits and vegetables.

If you're a poor person living in a poor neighborhood, you're less likely to have easy access to good supermarkets outside your neighborhood, and more likely to depend on the limited and overpriced options available in your neighborhood.

Obviously a store';s shelf price is the same for rich and poor alike. `It's just that the poor tend to have fewer low-priced and more high-priced food stores available to them.

Feb. 07 2009 08:06 PM
Ariel from Manhattan

For those who are unaware (as is evidenced by numerous comments on this board):

1) The workfare back-to-work (BTW) programs, the HRA so-called job opportunity specialists, and the WeCARE (medical-evaluation alternative of BTW for those who claim incapacity to work) all discourage or prevent people on cash assistance from furthering their education or training. They want to perpetuate the legalized slavery of programs such as WEP, or exploitation of desperate people by companies taking advantage of HRA's BusinessLink through which to procure these people as minimum-wage workers. Only nominal training for low-paying and frequently unpleasant jobs such as that of home health aide (HHA), is offered for a few weeks at best, which doesn't even lead to HHA certification. This whole business is a well-designed scheme to keep people in need, indeed.

2) Poor people who cannot shop outside of their neighborhoods certainly DO pay more for food. Even if the rent that a grocery or bodega pays is lower than that which a middle-class grocery pays in a more upscale district, the slum stores charge more, again exploiting poor people, assuming that food stamps will cover it, or that the poor have nowhere else to go without spending carfare or lots of time and energy walking to find more reasonable prices. Some have taken up this practice; others can't afford the wear and tear on shoes.

Jan. 25 2009 04:14 AM
Chris from Manhattan

P.S.- One of the guest said, "it's expensive to be poor". Well it is also expensive to be barely middle class or middle class! Living in NYC is expensive for everyone, it’s a struggle for all of us. That's a poor argument.

Jan. 07 2009 11:28 AM
Chris from Manhattan

Should we not attach conditions to getting more money from welfare? For example, a teacher gets pay incentives to increase their education. Why not encourage more people on welfare to seek a higher, or even a basic education, if they don't have one. It's not like they will have to pay to be educated. None of the students I work with, who are on Welfare, have to pay a cent for the college or GED classes they take. Plus, education could help break the cycle of poverty. Many of the welfare families I know need to be encouraged more to seek and encourage education in their homes, to see it as an option to improving their lives, to embrace it as an opportunity for upward mobility. Especially when they have no or few other options and opportunities. Education can also be very beneficial for welfare recipients at a time when jobs are scarce and the job market is filled with many candidates that are more qualified. Even entry level positions these days require/prefer a bachelors degree.

Jan. 07 2009 11:24 AM
Ciesse from Manhattan

Re: my earlier comment, here are the current maximum food-stamp allowances per month in NY: $176 for a single person, $323 for a household of two, $423 for three, $588 for four. While far from extravagant, this aspect of public assistance at least remains realistic. No single person should max out even $100 after two weeks of food shopping.

Jan. 07 2009 11:16 AM
dickfrommountkisco from mount kisco

Language matters. I would not oppose increasing the stipend to those on welfare, but I deeply resent being lumped in with Bernie Madoff, because I have supported myself for the past 50 years during which I worked and paid taxes enabling the stipend to be paid.

A thoughtless spokesperson is a liability - the more Keith Wright speaks the more of my neighbors that will write to their assemblymen in opposition.

Jan. 07 2009 11:10 AM
bernard joseph from brooklyn

as i do agree with this increase, i think the state could save alot of money by investigating who is receiving benefits fraudulently. for all the people eating chicken parts for the month, there are about a million times more women who are receiving benefits for themselves and their children under the declaration that they are single moms. we all know the classic scam is to not marry your boyfriend/father of kids and collect while he's working and not considered part of the household.

Jan. 07 2009 11:05 AM
Ciesse from Manhattan

I'm completely in favor of this gradual increase in the welfare grant. As a one-time beneficiary some years ago of the food-stamp program, however, I think it crucial that poor people be educated about how to shop for healthy food and how to spend frugally. My family never ate as abundantly as when we were on food stamps. The likely problem with that man who had nothing left in the fridge but chicken parts was not insufficient food-stamp funds but bad spending decisions.

Jan. 07 2009 11:01 AM
margie staker from bklyn

Couldn't agree more with both Wirght and Ladson and also that this is just a start.
However, do not agree that this proposed raise should come at the same time that the State(small $67 a month) supplement to the Federal SSi amount be proposed to be removed / reduced.

Jan. 07 2009 10:59 AM
Robert from NYC

This is why the Obama administration has to bring John Edwards back into the administration. He has a programs for those in poverty. This was his prime interest nationally. It's time to get over his misfortune that was personal and bring the man back into the coming administration as the man on poverty programs.

Jan. 07 2009 10:57 AM
bernard joseph from brooklyn

poor people do not pay more for food. how do you back up that statement?

Jan. 07 2009 10:57 AM

The shelter allowance of $215/per person has not changed in approx 20 years. Why not?

Jan. 07 2009 06:38 AM

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