paul’s words

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BUDGETARY POVERTY

Utah legislators have decided to let stand the latest cut-back in funding for the poorest of the poor – persons who are permanently, totally disabled. Benefits for about one-third of recipients of “General Assistance” (that meagre, miserly $261 cash assistance per month) will end. That saves money for Utah. It must be a very poor state that cannot afford to care for its own.

The news reports fail utterly to mention that the State of Utah is repaid by many General Assistance recipients. It is a condition of GA eligibility for the permanently, totally disabled that they must apply for assistance from the Social Security Administration (SSA) – either Social Security Disability (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) (or both) – and they must assign to the State of Utah a portion of whatever retroactive (to the date of application) SS benefit is granted.

How this works: a disabled person who applies for GA must also apply immediately for SSDI (and/or SSI). The SSA administrative process may take years before benefits are granted. During that time, the person should receive GA, that barest sum that has not increased in decades. Eventually, when SSA benefits begin, a retroactive check is sent to the State of Utah’s Office of Recovery Services, which extracts full reimbursement for every penny of GA the person has received, and sends the balance to the beneficiary.

But the bookkeeping is designed to hide the fact: those reimbursements do not show up in the GA account. GA should be treated as a true revolving fund – that actually has little “loss” – if the reimbursements were used to refill the coffers from which GA makes its payments. But the money becomes, instead, part of Workforce Services’ general fund.

Permanently, totally disabled persons actually repay the State; they are not a drain on the budget; they are not supported by state taxpayers. Indeed, permanently, totally disabled persons receiving an SSA benefit bring federal dollars into the state.

W. Paul Wharton