Manufacturing Poverty

MAYVILLE – At a recent public forum in Mayville, Assemblyman Andy Goodell was outspoken about his views on education, its ties to poverty and the Affordable Care Act.

While the theme of the event was poverty and its presence in Chautauqua County, Goodell, R-Jamestown, made his stance on the issues known.

“We’ve seen the data,” Goodell said. “A third of the children in Chautauqua County are in poverty, and the number of kids in poverty is higher than the number of adults, which tells you that the number of adults in poverty are having a disproportionate amount of kids. They’re related.”

Goodell further pointed out the correlation between poverty and other factors, such as education and marriage.

The unemployment rate for those without a high school diploma is about 50 percent higher than the unemployment rate for high school graduates, Goodell said.

“If we’re serious about upward mobility we need to recognize that education is a key component,” he added.

Furthermore, he said 71 percent of poor parents with children are not married, while 47 percent of poor families involve a high school drop out.

“When the war on poverty started, the illegitimacy rate in New York state was around 3 percent,” he said. “It’s now 72 percent among certain population groups. It’s in part because our government system paid people to have kids without being married, and of course, you get what you pay for.”

For example, he said, 100 percent of a married couple’s income is considered in calculating welfare benefits.

“If you’re not married, then dad’s income is only considered to the extent that he’s paying child support,” he said. “See the difference? We pay people not to get married.”

These issues, however, are very complex, he said.

“As soon as you say everyone’s income is going to be included so you don’t get a financial payment from the government to be single, you run into issues where you have a father who has kids with multiple mothers, and it gets very difficult allocating everything,” Goodell said. “And then, you have to deal with the real practical side of what about dead beat dads who don’t pay anything anyway?”

These issues make legislation complicated, he said, adding that policies in New York create serious barriers.

One of these, he said, is the Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps low-income families heat their homes.

“The only way you get don’t get it is if you don’t pay your bills on time,” he said. “So, if you don’t pay your utility bill on time, we’ll double the amount of assistance we give you, but if you pay it on time you’re simply out of luck.”

Goodell said it is an issue he wants to address at the state level, and make more money available for those who pay their bills on time.

He then discussed the positive and negative aspects of Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, and how they affect the working poor.

“The good news is that New York’s private insurance is some of the most comprehensive in the nation,” he said. “The bad news is it’s the most expensive in the nation, which creates a huge financial challenge. Even though it’s the most comprehensive in the nation, it’s less comprehensive than Medicaid.”

So, Goodell said, when someone on welfare gets a job, they’re no longer eligible for Medicaid.

“Their job just placed the health care of their children at risk,” he said. “You tell me what kind of parent wants to spend all day working hard and jeopardize health care coverage for their kids.”