Written by Jack Martins Thursday, 14 November 2013 00:00
If you’re a person who values common sense, then prepare yourself to be disgusted and angry. I’m about to tell you about a sensible piece of legislation that’s long overdue, but is being blocked by the New York State Assembly, which is shamelessly pandering to its constituents with your tax money. In fact, you may be shocked to learn that we even need this legislation at all, let alone that it’s being systematically stymied by some in Albany.
Currently, New York issues something called Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards to our welfare recipients. It works much like a debit card and it allows us to help our needy neighbors in an efficient yet dignified way. The system conveniently provides a Food Stamp and a Cash Assistance component all on one card. As it stands, strict regulations dictate what can be purchased with the Food Stamp allotment. Cash assistance, on the other hand, is intended to pay for items not covered by Food Stamps, such as soap, toothpaste, school supplies and toiletries. To be clear, there are no restrictions whatsoever on the use of the Cash Assistance component. None. It’s doled out like cash.
Now you can probably already guess what happens when you don’t place any restrictions on a program. It gets abused and that’s exactly what’s happening here. The Public Assistance Integrity Act (S.966), a bill I have co-sponsored, was introduced in response to this abuse which would prohibit using EBT cards for tobacco products, alcoholic beverages, lottery tickets, and ATM cash withdrawals at liquor stores and casinos.
This seems like a no-brainer, right? Why would anyone want our already stretched tax dollars being spent on smokes, booze or gambling? Clearly, no one wants to cast stones because everyone has vices, but accepting that reality doesn’t mean we should pay for those vices. That’s why this common-sense law was overwhelmingly passed by my colleagues and I in the state Senate in June of this year. Audaciously – but not surprisingly – the state Assembly has sat on it and not taken any action.
Now I can give you their politically correct reason, which is that they feel it might be unfair. In fact, one senator actually argued that we might be penalizing mothers who withdraw money at casinos and liquor stores to simply buy milk! But if you’d rather hear the truth than have me sell you a bridge, here it is. The Assembly is controlled by and mostly made up of New York City representatives. A good portion of our EBT recipients live in their districts and they’d jeopardize their re-elections by showing some backbone here. That’s it in a nutshell.
Just to prove that this isn’t a Republican versus Democrat issue, I’ll add that the Obama administration is now also requiring states to restrict how the cash portion of social services is spent. If they don’t, states risk losing 5 percent of their assistance funding next year. In New York that would come to about to $125 million.
New Yorkers have always been extraordinarily generous when it comes to public assistance, but that shouldn’t carry over to waste and abuse. For every dollar that’s wasted, that means one less dollar to help those who truly need it. That’s the true tragedy. Those who would oppose this change in favor of the status quo are only further hurting those in need and all for the sake of political pandering.
It’s hard to fathom how something so rational is being ignored, but remember Albert Einstein’s observation that, “The difference between genius and stupidity is; genius has its limits.” Enough said.
If you’d like to tell the state Assembly to get with the program, sign the online petition on my website at martins.nysenate.gov. Hopefully we can also show that stupidity has its limits.
Saturday, 30 August 2014 00:00
Who says a bride has to wear white on her wedding day? For South Asian brides, no color is off limits including brilliant reds, blues and golds. For the past 17 years, Vastra in Hicksville has been helping brides from New York and across the country find the perfect dress for their special day.
There’s no lack of Indian sari boutiques in Hicksville but according to Marketing Director Prachi Jain, what sets Vastra apart from the others is its emphasis on one of a kind, hand-embroidered Indian dresses.
Friday, 29 August 2014 00:00
Many would consider it rude to play with your food. That is unless, you’re participating in the Long Island Potato Festival. The event, which was held in Cutchogue, NY, included a mashed potato sculpting contest which was dominated by Hicksville’s Sarah Tsang, who won first place in the youth division.
Contestants were allowed to use any tools and materials to help bring their creation to life. Sculptures were left on display throughout the day and voted on by festival goers.
Friday, 29 August 2014 00:00
Somehow LSA, the Levittown Swimming Association, has always been a part of our Hicksville summers. My family’s introduction to the organization in 1975 began when our two older daughters tried out for the Parkway Swim Team, one of the nine teams that competed through July and most of August.
It was no small task for the younger girl, swimming her first full lap in the deep end of the pool to qualify at age six, but both girls made the team and donned the coveted gray tee shirts as the trees cast their shadows over the pool water at the end of practice.
Thursday, 28 August 2014 00:00
I’m convinced that the soul and the center of Hicksville is Cantiague Park. And why not? Every weekend it’s a beehive of activity ranging from tennis matches, hand ball games, basketball and baseball games, swimming, hockey and of course ‘the beautiful game’ called soccer. Cantiague has two professional soccer fields that are perfectly manicured and begging to be played on. And they were. This weekend was the finals of the East Meadow Soccer Tournament which is one of the largest youth soccer tournaments in the nation, sponsored by the US Soccer Federation. There were 18 boys and girls teams in the finals and a large staff of referees.
Two of the refs were Steven Orozco and Randy Vogt who told me how soccer had been growing and has now become the second most popular participation sport in America with 25 million of us watching this year’s World Cup. I also met and interviewed Joe Codispoti who along with Tim Bradbury is the head coach of Rockville Centre United, a U16 boys club. This U16 team has a group of standout players led by Jack Graziano, AJ Codispoti and Pat Basile who have been playing together for six years.