Friday, November 28, 2008

Hunger and gratitude

There was a touching story in Thursday's New York Times about the aftermath of a successful lawsuit against Clinton/Guiliani practices nearly a decade ago that reduced welfare costs in New York City through strategic incompetence. Back in 1996, when the federal welfare reform Clinton acquiesced to kicked in, New York State punted as many recipients as possible to Social Security Disability because, unlike the other programs, SSDI had no time limits.

But, along the way, the same folks were illegally dropped from the federal food stamp program. Eventually a nonprofit law firm sued on behalf of numerous eligible individuals in 2002. They won (the case was apparently open and shut) and this fall, back food stamp payments have been turning up in recipients' electronic accounts. (Bet they had printed books when this started.) All this came as a surprise to most folks who suddenly got more food purchasing power.

What's striking about this story is twofold: the enormity of need and the generosity of those who got back payments.

Monica Ryan ordinarily gets by on the munificent sum of $107/month in food assistance. Ms. Harris, a named plaintif in the suit, has been feeding a family on $176/month.

So what did recipients who suddenly found hundreds of dollars of back payments in their accounts do with their unexpected bounty? The ones described by the Times shared the wealth.

[Ms. Ryan] is planning on buying a turkey to share with her son, something she had not done in two years because, she said, "it takes half the monthly allowance to buy the groceries for that one meal."

... Luis Rosario, 52, who lives in the Bronx with his mother, received $2,333, because he was cut off in 1999 and was just put back in the program.

He said he would use the money to make a Thanksgiving meal of roast pork and turkey for his sister, daughters and grandchildren.

And, he said, he would also take care of Christmas, too. "We usually go to my sister in New Jersey, but she was laid off," Mr. Rosario said, "so this year we are going to take care of everyone."

It is a sentiment that would sit well with Abdelkader Louali, who also lives in the Bronx and got a payout of $550. With that money Mr. Louali, who lives alone, purchased some shrimp as a treat, and he also bought $64 in food for neighbors who were in need.

It was a special pleasure to him, he said, to finally be the one who had enough to share with others. "I have $100 left," he said, "but it is the holidays and I would give it away. You see, my refrigerator is already full."

1 comment:

bjohanna said...

As my partner says "a rich country with a rotten distribution system."

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