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.
Thursday, 06 March 2014 00:00
Westbury High School students are teaching younger children from Park Avenue Elementary School valuable life lessons about money and business skills through the High School Heroes program.
In this program, high school students that are taking Renate Johnson’s Junior Achievement class will go into first grade classrooms to teach 45-minute lessons.
“It is a program that gives high school and younger students confidence and teaches them about business and financial literacy,” said Johnson.
Saturday, 08 March 2014 00:00
The Westbury Historical Society will host Dr. Natalie Naylor, professor emerita at Hofstra University and author of Women in Long Island’s Past: Eminent Ladies and Everyday Lives at their next meeting on March 9.
Naylor’s presentation will focus on the place of women in Long Island’s history, including several prominent women from Westbury’s past.
Thursday, 20 February 2014 00:00
Albertson resident and Kellenberg sophomore Gabby Schreib qualified for the Millrose Games in New York City. Schreib qualified as a member of the Sprint Medley Relay along with Danielle Correia, Bridget McNierney, and Jazmine Fray.
The Kellenberg relay’s close second place finish in January’s Millrose Trials has moved them closer to defending the title they won in the same relay at last year’s Millrose Games. Schreib and her teammates time is currently second in the United States for girls track and field performances.
Thursday, 20 February 2014 00:00
Congratulations to Westbury athletes Michael Esposito, Eileen Harris, Brett Harris, and Michael Going, each of whom won awards in Race # 1 of the Jonas Chiropractic Run Nassau Series co-hosted by Nassau County and the Greater Long Island Running Club.
Michael Esposito, age 15, took home the second place award in the 15-19 age group with a time of 23 minutes, 6 seconds. Eileen Harris, age 42, earned the first place award in the women’s 40-44 age group. She completed the race with her 45 year old husband, Brett Harris, who was the third place award winner in the men’s 45-49 age group. Michael Going, age 41, scored third place honors in the 40-44 age group with a time of 20 minutes, 51 seconds.