I. How the System Operates
- Initially, the applicant must contact the trustee and establish a need for assistance.
- An informal interview may be conducted with the trustee recommending a suggested plan of action for the applicant to follow. This may include referral to other social services agencies.
- A formal application is filed, according to the Township standard guidelines.
- The Trustee’s office makes the decision whether the need is real, and the applicant meets the township requirements. Able-bodied recipients may be required to work for their assistance.
- Voucher is written to vendor, and paid by the county auditor usually the month following completion of work order, if given.
II. Strength of the System
- Each time the control of funding for a governmental program passes from an elected official to an appointment bureaucrat, the taxpayer loses more control of that money. The Federal government, through the block grant programs, control of tax monies, because of categorical grants were not as effective. The local governmental administrators know where the money can do the most good. Elected officials are more responsive to the public.
- Indiana is basically a state of small towns, e.g. Brookston, Banta, Loogootee, French Lick, Angolia, Rensselaer, etc. It is not more convenient for someone living in Mooresville to travel to Martinsville for assistance, or for a resident of Burlington to go to Delphi. The Township Trustee is known to the people of small-town Indiana because he assesses their personal and real property and administers the fire departments. Over 857 of the 1008 townships have populations less than 5000. If the proposed takeover of Township Assistance by the 92 county welfare offices occurs, there will be a need for branch offices. It is our contention that we already have 1008 branch offices in places. The trustee would still be paid and keep his office, so any additional welfare offices would just cost more money.
- There is a growing concern among taxpayers about the ability of some individuals to exist off the government entitlement programs. One case in Wabash Township, Tippecanoe County, recently, involved a family of 6 who received the following assistance:
- HUD: (housing assistance) $423.00/month
- AFDC: 298.00/month. Food Stamps: 277.00/month
- Total: $998.00/month or $11,976 annually (all tax free) and does not include the free medical care through Medicaid, free school lunches and textbook rental.
- The Township Assistance system is based on the premises that an applicant must establish a need each time he applies for assistance. Under entitlement programs, once approved, the need is assumed constant and money is received on a long term basis. This is subject to abuse as noted in the example cited in (c) above. The emergency assistance is granted for a specific request, and the trustee is certain that the need is met because the voucher is specific. Who knows what AFDC checks are spent for?
- Because the elected Township trustee has many responsibilities in addition to Township Assistance. It is difficult, if not impossible for most trustees to determine their exact administrative costs. Each day a trustee may deal with any or all of the following duties: provide fire protection; maintain cemeteries, township centers, parks, libraries; schools; provide funding for summer recreation programs and 4 – H; assessing of all personal property and real property of its residents, collecting and disbursing dog tax monies; weed eradication and fence line dispute settlements among other things.
- If trustees spend more money on Township Assistance, they could reduce the salary – to – dollars spent ratio. None of this takes into account that a trustee may spend several hours/days investigating a case only to deny it, or find alternative funding, or find the applicant a job; in each of these cases, the trustee spent administrative time, without spending poor relief money. Both the Township taxpayer and recipient are better off, but the ratio of salary -to -dollars – spent will go up. (Smaller townships do not pay staff benefits, insurance, etc.
III. Recent Changes in Township Assistance
- In 1979, the legislature passed a law which required township trustees to pay for school book rental for eligible applicants out of Township Assistance funds. However, the legislature did not provide funding for this program. At that time, the guidelines were 110% of the food stamp guidelines. This is a case of tying local money to federal guidelines which increased each year. Many trustees found that their bills for school books alone were more than 50% of their total previous poor relief budget! Wisely, in 1983, the legislature established standards independent of the federal standards, to provide some aid to most of the townships. It should also be noted that no child is denied school books, even is his parents do not pay the rental. The parent may be denied assistance by the trustee, but the children are never without school book texts. Only, able-bodied, unemployed or not fully-employed members of households are required to participate in the workfare programs.
- Each township is required to have written standards which are periodically reviewed and changed, as needed. The proposed statewide rules and benefits ignore the economic and cultural diversity of Indiana. To propose that counties which are primarily rural and those primarily industrial have the same needs and funding is ridiculous.
- At the Township level, workfare is a viable program. In 1979, through the efforts of one Trustee, the legislature enacted workman’s compensation insurance for Township Assistance recipients working for benefits.
- Recent editorial support for continuing the administration of Township Assistance with the office of the township trustee has come from the Indiana Farm Bureau and radio station WSHW, (Frankfort – Kokomo) among others.
IV. Recommendations for Improvements of Various Welfare-type Programs
- Project SAFE money should have gone to the trustee to administer only for fuel (energy) assistance.
- Trustees are elected officials. There would be no additional administrative costs.
- Townships already have 1008 offices in places – – no need for additional offices to be set up. Local residents know where to find the trustee office thus eliminating the expense of advertisement and mailing.
- Trustee – administered SAFE funds would eliminate the need to “spend all the money”. A few years ago money was not designated for fuel only – and TV cable, insurance and car payments were made. It might be useful to look at the administrative costs of the SAFE program.
- The trustee would be able to discover duplication in services which would be more difficult to uncover as currently structured.
- The AFDC program as currently structured destroys the incentive to work for the following reasons:
- If a mother works, her benefits are reduced accordingly. There should be provision to provide continued benefits to supplement her income.
- Child-care expenses, clothing and travel expenses often leave a working single parent with less income than if he/she were on AFDC.
- In addition, if a mother works, and is dropped from the program, all medical care is her responsibility since most of the types of jobs she would be able to get, have few or no medical programs. For preschool children, even well-baby care can be expensive.
- In an AFDC recipient was able to earn part of her income, she would be part of the solution to her own problems.
- The AFDC – Unemployed Parent Program already is in place in Indiana. It is better known as the township workfare program. Statistics are available concerning the savings of workfare programs in other states.
- The Food Stamp program has several inherent problems:
- There is no workfare program for food stamps. If the trustee were allowed to administer the program under workfare, there is no doubt the savings would be substantial. This, of course, is only for those able-bodied applicants who are not fully employed.
- Even with the food stamps program, the nutritional needs of the poor are not being met. Recipients should be required to attend classes/workshops, etc. concerning nutrition and food buying. The county extention services, local homemaker groups and senior citizen groups could all be used as resource personnel to conduct these classes at virtually no expense.
- Help with budgeting, not only with food, but also with other household expenses should be another required program.
- The problem of not being able to purchase necessary cleaning and personal hygiene supplies with food stamps needs to be addressed at the Federal level since the food stamp program is run by the Department of Agriculture.