Congressman Roy Blunt thinks the federal welfare-to-work law is working well, getting people off the welfare rolls and into paying jobs. But some people who’ve made the move say the program isn’t working as well as itcould. Blunt has met with some of them in Springfield and has heard them say the program has not solved their problems with getting health insurance, with finding affordable child care so they can work, and for helpingthem with reliable transportation so they can get to work. Blunt says the program needs to be improved, “around the edges,” as he puts it.
The number of homeless in the state has risen dramatically in the past few years. More than 16,000 people are living in Missouri’s homeless shelters, up 42 percent from just a few years ago, according to a new census. And, advocates for the homeless say that number is actually lower the the real amount. Peter De Simone with the Missouri Association Social Welfare, an advocacy group for the poor, says some help can be obtained by better managing the food stamp program. And, De Simone says better distribution of food stamps would not costany more in state tax dollars because those food stamps are already a federal benefit.
Senator John Ashcroft is thanking Missourians for letting him serve as their Senator the past six years. Ashcroft is in the middle of a three-day tour of the state saying good-bye by highlighting various legislative accomplishments. He began the tour in his hometown of Springfield at the Salvation Army headquarters, telling officials there how he hopes the Charitable Choice provision of welfare reform will change government’s approach to fighting poverty. Today, visits are planned for Joplin, Columbia, St. Joseph and Kansas City. At the stops, Ashcroft is scheduled to discuss the issues of methamphetamine, social security and agriculture.
Missouri’s poverty rate slips another tenth in the latest census bureau figures, down to 10.7%. But a leading advocate for Missouri’s poor says those numbers are only part of the story. Peter DeSimone heads the Missouri Association for Social Welfare. He says his group is grateful that the poor are doing better in Missouri. At the same time, DeSimone points out that 17% of the state’s children are still living below the poverty level. And he says the federally-established poverty level is only about half the amount the state economic development department says is needed for self- sufficiency in Missouri.
A wide disparity exists among Missouri’s counties in the people eligible for food stamps who are getting them. A special task force of the Missouri Association for Social Welfare finds 80 of Missouri’s 114 counties are below average in the number of people eligible for food stamps who’re actually getting them. The Association’s Peter DeSimone can’t find a pattern in the study either. Some of the state’s counties are above average, others are below. The lowest is Nodaway County. Only 21% of eligible recipients are getting food stamps there.
Gary Stangler, the Director of Missouri’s Department of Social Services has announced his resignation after eleven years in the post. He felt it was time to move on. Stangler says he’s very proud of the way his department has performed…although Stangler has his detractors. Peter De Simone with the Missouri Association for Social Welfare suggests Stangler hasn’t been a very good friend to the poor.
A study of hungry people in Missouri finds more than four out of ten people eligible for food stamps don’t get them. Some don’t know they can get them. Some don’t want to seek the help. And some, says Peter DeSimone of the Missouri Association for Social Welfare, have just been left behind by all the changes in welfare laws. The report says one in twelve Missourians does not know where or when they’ll get their next meal…or whether the meal will be nutritious. The state department of social services says it is studying ways to overcome those problems.