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By Mike Hudson

New York State is a lot of things to a lot of people but, to welfare recipients, it is the land of milk and honey, a place where gilt- edged benefits never run out and generations of families are supported with money taken from hardworking taxpayers.

In Niagara Falls and Buffalo, those who contribute nothing to society are treated to perks, including free health insurance with full dental and eye care coverage, subsidized housing built at a cost above that of average homes in the region, a monthly stipend, and enough food stamps to keep them fat and happy.

Americans are famous for their willingness to relocate to areas offering better opportunities, and chronic welfare recipients are, for the most part, Americans. Their exodus from less welfare-friendly states to New York can almost be seen as a cultural phenomenon not dissimilar to the westward expansion the country experienced during the 19th Century.

In Niagara County, with a population of 212,000 people, 5,300 are collecting full-blown welfare benefits that include a cash stipend of $324 a month, full medical, dental and eye-care insurance through Medicaid, and food stamps. The total number of individuals in the county receiving some but not all benefits is around 66,000, or about one quarter of all people who live here.

Under Bill Clinton’s welfare reform package passed in the mid-1990s, a time limit of five years or 61 months was made into Federal law for collecting welfare benefits. The generous New York State Legislature responded with a program called Safety Net to carry on beyond five years. There is currently no limit to how long a person can collect welfare benefits.

New York State is one of the only states that provide for public assistance benefits beyond five years.

The $99,000 question is why is it that people who don’t work, can’t provide for themselves, or just refuse to pay for it themselves, can receive superior benefits to those people who bust their tails to pay for it?

The healthcare benefits handed out freely by the state under the Medicaid program are superior to most private insurance plans, superior even to those of the Erie and Niagara county civil service employees whose job it is to hand out the benefits.

County workers do not have dental coverage, and they don’t have eye coverage, either. Because of all the extras provided and paid for by the state and counties using tax dollars, New York’s Medicaid plan has become – along with education – one of the two costliest items in the budget. New York spends more on providing Medicaid benefits than Texas and California combined.

Things like medical exams are an optional benefit not mandated by the federal government, as are regular eye exams and eye glasses. As a matter of fact, there is no limit in New York State. You could get 10 pairs of eyeglasses in a year if you wanted to.

Medicaid costs in Niagara County amount to just over $45 million a year, providing benefits to some 35,500 souls whose top of the line health care benefits are superior to typical coverage provided by employers for the average American worker who pays for it.

The federal Medicaid program mandates 10 basic services. There are about 21 optional services.

New York State is providing 30 of them, the most in the country.

Other states, including California, have reduced benefits covered, but in New York that has not happened.

The political will to put an end to the gravy train that is the New York State welfare system is lacking because powerful downstate representatives in the State Legislature have a huge number of welfare recipients among their voting constituencies.
They vote for a living while we work for a living.

The question is how long can the Niagara Frontier sustain the continued exodus of bright, educated, hardworking people, replacing them with those too lazy or stupid to work, or whose drug and alcohol dependencies make showing up for a job every day impossible.



Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com June 26 , 2012