State Budget Cuts Take Unusual Tolls on the Poor

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June 7, 2011; Source: Stateline | How do state budget cuts affect the poor? Try this example from Kansas, where the state has ended a program of paying $550 to poor families to help them pay for a relative’s funeral. Ending the program saved the state all of $250,000. The impact? Increasing numbers of people are leaving relatives’ bodies and cremated remains unclaimed at coroners’ offices.

In Florida, the increasingly unpopular governor, Rick Scott, cut $615 million from the budget passed by the legislature, including the $750,000 Farm Share program that provided unused fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers to homeless shelters and food pantries. It’s a characteristic program cut of Scott, who also truncated or killed state programs for homeless veterans, meals for senior citizens, and whooping cough vaccines for poor mothers.

New Mexico wiped out a half million dollar program supplementing federal food stamp benefits for 4,000 low-income elderly and disabled persons. These aren’t hypothetical cuts or eliminations of wasteful programs, but specific programs of great benefit to poor people who won’t have alternative sources for assistance.—Rick Cohen