As many of you may already know, this is the second winter that I have raised the income eligibility limit for applicants requesting assistance. I raised it from 100% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines to 125%. These figures, however, can seem very abstract and not have much meaning in themselves. I hope this article can illustrate how much of an impact this change has made, as well as explain why I did it.
As the guardian of your tax dollars, as well as a taxpayer myself, I have a solid belief that government should be a safety net for people who help themselves to the best of their ability, and not support those who don't put forth personal effort. Some people are under the impression that those who are township-eligible are simply lazy or taking advantage of the system. However I know first-hand that this is not true. Many of our clients are physically unable to work and are in the process of applying for federal disability benefits. We also see a significant number of senior citizens on fixed incomes who have been self-supporting their entire lives.
Reasons people seek township assistance vary significantly, and although a few do try to abuse the system, many more applicants are genuinely doing the best they can. A single person who works full-time at minimum wage slightly exceeds the 100% poverty level and therefore wouldn't normally be eligible for township assistance. However, he or she may be very much in need - especially during the winter when utility prices soar. Because this is a basic necessity, I wanted to extend help to these working, taxpaying citizens. Many of the working poor can't quite make ends meet and often are faced with the decision to either "eat or heat". I just don't believe it should be that way. People working full-time should be able to pay for their basic necessities, and when they can't, through no fault of their own, the government should provide relief. That is why I expanded the income limits of eligibility.
I hope this has answered any questions about the intent and impact of raising these guidelines. As always, I truly welcome your response. As an elected official chosen to represent fellow citizens, I sincerely appreciate receiving your input. Please continue to send your questions, concerns, and suggestions. Last month I received a phone call from a Waynedale senior citizen, whose positive comments gave us a refreshing reminder to my staff and I just how much we make a difference in people's lives.
Matthew P. Schomburg
Trustee, Wayne Township