BOISE • One in five Idahoans receive welfare benefits, almost double the level 10 years ago.

“Enrollment is going down, but not at the rate we would like,” said Dick Armstrong, director of the state’s Department of Health and Welfare, to the Legislature’s budget writers.

Armstrong shared these numbers, and his proposed fiscal year 2015 budget, with the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee on Monday.

Nearly 321,700 Idahoans are enrolled in the state’s food stamp, cash assistance, child care or Medicaid program, he said. The level has dropped by slightly less than 10 percent since January 2012.

Idahoans are going back to work since the nation’s economic downturn rippled across the state, Armstrong said, but they are working at low-income jobs. Low-paying jobs, such as those in the service industry, have replaced the high-paying jobs, primarily in manufacturing or production, that were lost in the Great Recession.

Without receiving a “living wage,” Idahoans still rely on public assistance to help pay for food medical care.

“We have become a low-income state,” Armstrong said.

A single parent with two children would need $22.25 an hour, or $46,272 a year, to make ends meet in Idaho, he said. Idaho’s median wage, however, is $11.15 an hour or $23,200 annually. The national median is $14.20 an hour or $29,538 annually.

Despite the increase in public assistance recipients, Armstrong said, Idaho is not becoming a “welfare state.” The state has some of the most stringent requirements in the nation.

A report from the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank based in Washington, D.C., said Idaho has the lowest welfare benefits in the U.S. The state also has the highest percentage of adults receiving benefits in work programs, Cato found.

“No one can live as a welfare king or queen in Idaho,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong is requesting a 1.6 percent budget increase for fiscal 2015, with the biggest increase to add 2.5 percent to his department’s general fund. He also requests money to start three behavioral health crisis centers. Those would not only bolster mental health care, now scanty in Idaho, but also would alleviate the burden on law enforcement and jails, where offending mental patients now are housed, as well as hospitals, to which these offenders also are shunted often.

The crisis center funding was also in Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s budget proposal.

Other department priorities include creating a pilot child welfare program to reduce foster care placements and continue working to transform the state’s health-care system.

Budget writers will spend the rest of the week listening to presentations on Health and Welfare’s programs and divisions. The committee will begin finalizing the state budget later in the session.

(7) comments

underdog
underdog

$46,272 a year! I don't make that much and I am not on welfare. What a disturbing article. I guess because I do not go to Starbucks everyday, don't have the latest cell phone, drive an older car, coupon shop at the grocery store, and cook my meals from scratch, and do not eat out at restaurants I do not have to be on welfare. Go to Winco on the first of the month and just observe. Those with the EBT cards are fresh from their lunch eating at a restaurant, with an expensive coffee cup in their hand, buying ready to eat meals by the cartload while talking on the latest smart phone. They load their free groceries into a newer car than mine. Welfare used to be for the people that REALLY needed help. Now it is for just about everyone. Again it is a handout instead of a hand up. I would be embarrassed to act as these people do, feeling entitled to get the goods. Before anyone comments that I don't know what I'm talking about do some research first and then tell me I am wrong.

lizcodoni
lizcodoni

So, Underdog, how many kids are you feeding? Sure, a single adult can get by on practically nothing, but kids grow, and they need food, clothes, heat, and the list goes on. I have a friend who is a single parent with three kids, works full time at a nursing home for under $11.00 an hour - and she's ashamed she needs food stamps and Medicaid for the kids in order to get by - and that shame comes from fools like you. Get over yourself.

duke
duke

where is the deadbeat husband,i say she needs help but her husband needs hard labor........

SKC_ID
SKC_ID

Did you miss this part?
"The state has some of the most stringent requirements in the nation."
I guess it's really not for everyone, huh?

One more thing - During the time that you were busy complaining about someone buying unnecessary items with their food stamps, Exxon pocketed $9000 of your tax dollars. Now, that's a real welfare queen.

underdog
underdog

OUCH! I guess the liberals are at home today! SKC ID I don't even know what you are talking about, Focus and stay on the issue. I understand that some people need this stopgap, but it is not meant to be a life long addiction. For the person that is making less than $11/hour I hope that they are going back to school to make a better life for themselves and their children. There is so much opportunity available with grants and scholarships that everyone should be able to achieve what they want. Now I know I will get the excuse that they can't go back to school for some reason. BS. I had kids went to night school and got my education. It can be done with the help of family and friends. For everyone that posts, let's have an intelligent debate and stop the personal name calling.

lizcodoni
lizcodoni

She went back to school and got a CNA (certified nursing assistant). Burger flippers aren't the only members of the service industry underclass . . .

SKC_ID
SKC_ID

I'm talking about corporate welfare, and wondering why there is never any outcry about that. Corporate welfare payouts (your tax dollars) are twice as much as social welfare payouts, but that doesn't seem to upset anyone. Next time you get angry about people who are in need receiving government help, think about all the handouts that are going to big business.

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