New study could improve effectiveness of welfare

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

There is a perception — though it may be inaccurate — that many relying on welfare benefits are part of generational poverty where taxpayer-funded assistance has become a “family tradition.”

When generation after generation after generation rely solely on government assistance, it’s worth asking how the program can be improved to end generational dependency.

And that is the goal of a Bootheel lawmaker who wants the state to fund a study on generational use of public assistance.

Rep. Herman Morse (R-Dexter) has proposed the study to shine light on the effectiveness of welfare programs.

There’s no question that welfare dependency is indeed a generational problem. And though this state study will not resolve the issue, it may well help lawmakers adopt programs to break the chain of dependency.

Opponents of the study fear the research will only stigmatize those on welfare. Yet they offer no insight or solution on how to reduce or eliminate generational reliance on government programs for food, housing, health care or other daily needs.

Why would anyone oppose a study that could at long last provide a pathway to escape total reliance on welfare?

I think the study will reveal some eye-opening data that hopefully will nudge the discussion on public assistance.

The study is not designed to reduce welfare spending but rather to gather information that could well help lawmakers tailor programs that are more effective.

I have long been associated with a welfare-era program that provides housing assistance for the low income population. That program is now serving the fourth generation of some families.

There are indeed opportunities for individuals to break this cycle, but, truthfully, those roads are all too often difficult to navigate. And the result is often generational dependency.

Perhaps this study will mark a first step in designing approaches that can help open new pathways for those caught in the cycle of government assistance.

Generational dependency fits the old definition of insanity — doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

We can only hope this study — if approved — will mark a first step on providing the much-needed information that can change the way we fight poverty while still providing the essential resources needed to survive.

As a society, we have accepted that some families will always be in need. That approach is lazy and does little to truly service the needy.

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