The Real Price of New York's Generous Welfare Benefits

Most of this is from a August 1994 press release by Tom Carroll, then President of CHANGE-NY:

New York state's welfare benefits are so high that a welfare recipient would have to work at a job paying nearly $45,000 to break-even, according to a study released today by CHANGE-NY, a statewide taxpayers organization with over 100,000 members.

"It is often said that New York provides a Cadillac-style welfare program. Rolls Royce is more like it," explained Tom Carroll, CHANGE-NY's president.

The CHANGE-NY study documents that the typical welfare recipient (a woman with two children) is able to receive a tax-free welfare-benefit package costing taxpayers $32,571 annually. This figure encompasses the most common and broadly used welfare programs in New York, including the AFDC basic cash grant, Medicaid health coverage, and subsidies for food, housing, and energy cost.

To have after-tax take-home pay of $32,571 from a regular job, a welfare recipient would have to earn a salary of $44,900 annually, according to CHANGE-NY. By comparison, the starting salary for nuclear engineers with college degrees is $32,200. The $44,900 figure also is higher than the statewide median household income, almost four times the poverty level, and almost three times the annual unemployment-insurance benefits.

The CHANGE-NY study also noted that sending the welfare recipient to Harvard University would be cheaper than the current approach. The cost of tuition, family housing, meals, health services at Harvard is $31,692 per year -- less than what New York shells out annually for a welfare recipient.

Carroll explained that while not everyone makes this much on welfare, many do. The example provided -- a woman with two children -- is the typical recipient, contrary to the common stereotype of a single able-bodied male on welfare.

"The impulse to be generous to those who fall on hard times is natural -- and commendable. But the state's taxpayers simply cannot afford this level of generosity. And, this so-called compassion is not in the interests of the welfare recipient either, who would be better served by self-sufficiency instead of long-term dependency," Carroll added.

Since 1982, New York has spent more than $180 billion waging the "War on Poverty." The result: the state's poverty rate went up, not down.

In 1982, New York had fewer than 1.3 million welfare recipients (AFDC and Home Relief). Today, New York has more than 1.6 Million welfare recipients -- a 25 percent increase.

CHANGE-NY today recommended setting a ceiling on the combined amount that welfare recipients can recieve from all welfare programs, imposing a time limit on the duration of welfare benefits, and providing welfare recipients with a universal voucher or debit card in place of the existing web of complicated, bureau cratic, and expensive individual programs.

ASSISTANCE PROGRAM and ANNUAL AMOUNT: AFDC basic cash grant, $2,856; Medicaid, $13,664; Housing Assistance, $9,828; Food Assistance, $4,507; Energy Assistance, $1,716. TOTAL $32,571. Pre-Tax Equivalent of Welfare Benefit Level $44,900.