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Article takes aim at Georgia's welfare policy

7:33 PM, Dec 28, 2012   |    comments
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(WXIA) -- It's been re-Tweeted 700 times and liked on Facebook 7,000 times: a scathing article on the left-leaning political site Slate.com called "Georgia's Hunger Games".

The article, written by Neil deMause, spends nearly 4,000 words describing how the Peach State "declared war on its poorest citizens" and has one of the lowest percentages in the country of people in poverty actually receiving financial help.

Said deMause in an interview via Skype Friday, "The case workers, who are supposed to be telling people what benefits are available to them, their job has been instead to get people out the door without applying, by any means necessary."

Of course, there is a huge philosophical debate in this country about how to handle rising poverty rates and, quite simply, how much government help to give those in poverty. In the Slate piece, deMause says Georgia's state government -- specifically the Department of Human Services -- has gone beyond the standard tactics, taking part in "creative bookkeeping", "keeping [those in need] from getting benefits," and doing whatever possible to "slam the door in the face of the state's neediest".

"There's definitely a lot of funny business going on in Georgia," said deMause over Skype. "I don't know that any of it's illegal, technically, but it's definitely bending the rules."

The article cites a study earlier this year from the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute that illustrated some of the state's tactics. A study showed the state received $330 million for FY 2013 in federal temporary assistance funds, or TANF funds, to give to needy families. However, the state only used 57% of those funds on other measures, filling holes in the state budget for services like child welfare.

"A lot of the funding went to child protective services and child welfare, which are incredibly important," said GBPI executive director Alan Essig. "But instead of using state funds, they cut state funds and used TANF funds instead."

Our calls and e-mails Friday to the Department of Human Services went un-returned.

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