The PJ Tatler

Facing a Massive Deficit, Arizona Slashes Welfare Benefits

Arizona is looking at a $1B deficit so the state legislature has cut the state’s welfare program, reducing the lifetime limit for benefits to the lowest in the nation.

Benefits will be cut off after one year for families on the program.  “As a result, the Arizona Department of Economic Security will drop at least 1,600 families — including more than 2,700 children — from the state’s federally funded welfare program on July 1, 2016.”

The Associated Press describes “The cuts of at least $4 million reflect a prevailing mood among the lawmakers in control in Arizona that welfare, Medicaid and other public assistance programs are crutches that keep the poor from getting back on their feet and achieving their potential.”

“I tell my kids all the time that the decisions we make have rewards or consequences, and if I don’t ever let them face those consequences, they can’t get back on the path to rewards,” Republican Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City, said during debate on the budget. “As a society, we are encouraging people at times to make poor decisions and then we reward them.”

Not everyone is happy about the legislature’s decision.

Cutting off these benefits after just one year isn’t fair, said Jessica Lopez, 23, who gave birth to her son while living in a domestic violence shelter and has struggled to hold onto jobs because she has dyslexia and didn’t finish high school.

“We’re all human,” said Lopez, who got $133 per month for about a year until she qualified for a larger federal disability check. “Everybody has problems. Everybody is different. When people ask for help, we should be able to get it without having to be looked at wrong.”

Arizona’s new welfare limits are the most restrictive in the nation. Most states have a five-year limit on benefits, 13 states have two-year limits and Texas has a tiered system.

The state made other cuts to keep in line with the governor’s pledge not to increase taxes. “The Legislature also passed a law seeking to force anyone getting Medicaid to have a job, and cutting off those benefits after five years. And Republican leaders are suing their own state to block a centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s health care law, which expanded Medicaid to give more poor people health insurance.”

The AP, which has a terribly biased write up on this story explains that the money for Arizona’s welfare program comes from the federal government. “Arizona’s welfare is entirely federally funded through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, but that money comes in a block grant, and Republicans want to use it instead for agencies such as the state’s Department of Child Safety.” The cuts in welfare will go to help the children but we don’t read about that until the very end of the story.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey says the cuts are needed to protect the state’s education programs. “The bipartisan, balanced budget passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor protects Arizona’s most vulnerable, while avoiding a tax increase,” said Daniel Scarpinato, governor’s office spokesman.