Guide to Using the United States Welfare System

This guide helps you to understand public assistance and how to use the United States welfare system.

| September/October 1970

  • Getting help from the welfare system
    Public welfare has long been this country's favorite red herring. Because of our puritanical heritage, we have been graced with that Protestant ethic of ethics which says "No work, no bread!"

  • Getting help from the welfare system

 It's as predictable as weeds in an August garden. Mention "welfare" to the Great Middle Class and a stereotyped image—accompanied by much raving and rantinginstantly flashed across Agnewland: Young, black woman in some big city with four illegitimate children and more on the way, permanently lollygagging about at the expense of "us honest, hardworking taxpayers". Kind of strange isn't it: The Pavlof response never seems to include the families in Appalachia whose farms were strip mined by a company that moved on, took its jobs with it and left... nothing. Nor the old folks whose home and business were destroyed by an urban "development" ... nor the young father dying of cancer... nor the children starving in Georgia because "boss" only pays their daddy $5.00 a day and, that, just during cotton season... nor the old lady blinded by glaucoma... nor even the young, white, middle class working people ("the company lost the contract and closed the plant, you know") that needs a little help till something ("anything") turns up. The truth of the matter is that welfare was designed to do some particular jobs and—whenever those jobs need doin'it should be used. Furthermore, when it IS usedsince our government seems able to afford moon shots and insane warswelfare should provide something more than a bare existence. A little compassion thrown in wouldn't hurt either.  

At the end of 1968 over 10 million Americans collected public welfare in one form or another from the United States welfare system. But for every individual who received a welfare grant, perhaps two more were eligible! I will attempt to explain the welfare system to you in order that you "know" the facts. If you think you are eligible after reading this, GO TO YOUR LOCAL DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE AND APPLY!

The public welfare system has long been this country's favorite red herring. Because of our puritanical heritage, we have been graced with that Protestant ethic of ethics which says "No work, no bread!" As a natural extension of this train of thought we have added that the poor must be "worthy" as well as needy. And worthiness is measured in terms of how much crow one will eat in order to collect welfare: the more the crow eaten, the higher the welfare grant.

People, welfare is a right, not a privilege. It is guaranteed in the Federal Constitution that all people have the necessities of living. For fact, one need not even be a citizen! One need only be eligible.

In order to see how welfare works, I should first explain how it is financed.

All public welfare as we know it today in the U.S.A. came about due to the Social Security Act of 1935 which carried a provision that: States should insure that their residents have the necessities; states set guidelines for these necessities; and that federal money would be given to states to develop programs within the states to see that poverty was eliminated. However, it was not until the Kennedy years that real teeth was given to the welfare program.

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