Wednesday, May 19, 2010

There's a winner in Rep. Eric Cantor's YouCut contest: iPods for welfare recipients

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor invited Americans to vote on government programs they’d like cut. One week and 280,000 text messages and online votes later, the first results are in: an emergency welfare fund that in some cases has been used by poor families to buy iPods.

The first program to be nominated for the chopping block through Cantor’s YouCut contest is the Emergency Contingency Fund for State TANF Programs.

Out of more than 280,000 votes cast, over 81,000 people, or 29 percent, supported getting rid of the Emergency Fund, which Cantor, a Republican from Virginia, labeled as “New Non-Reformed Welfare.”

The summary of the program on Cantor’s website said it “was recently created to incentivize states to increase their welfare caseloads without requiring able-bodied adults to work, get job training, or otherwise prepare to move off of taxpayer assistance.”

“Reforming the welfare program was one of the great achievements of the mid 1990s, saving taxpayers billions of dollars and ending the cycle of dependency on welfare,” Cantor’s site said. “This new program, created in 2009, is a backdoor way to undo those reforms.”

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) website says the Emergency Fund is designed to help states, territories or tribes that have “an increase in assistance caseloads and basic assistance expenditures, or in expenditures related to short-term benefits or subsidized employment.”

Cantor’s office said that only half of the $5 billion in the Emergency Fund has been spent but that Democrats want to continue the program for another year and add $2.5 billion more as part of a large “extenders” bill that is expected to be debated on the House floor this week.

The YouCut contest voted to end the program before the second half of the $5 billion can be spent, and to bar the $2.5 billion in additional money from being spent.

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