Letter: Legislation to Harass Impoverished Virginians

To the Editor:

Does the "Every Child Matters” mantra by Virginia legislators apply to all Virginia children except for those receiving benefits via TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families)?

TANF benefits average $267 per month for a family of three, an amount incapable of providing the bare essentials needed for the survival of a family. What legislator’s family could be living on $267 a month? However, legislators in Virginia, instead of being concerned about the adequacy of the paltry sum received by the most impoverished in our state, have turned their attention to possible abuse, alleged abuse that has not been established by any evidence presented to

support the legislation.

In legislation introduced by Virginia Delegate Riley Ingram, concern is expressed that this paltry sum will be misspent by recipients, so legislation has been introduced to prevent possible abuse by prohibiting the use of the assistance amount “for the purchase of alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, or lottery tickets … or (at an) adult entertainment establishment in which performers appear nude or partially nude” (HB 1307 Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

(TANF); restrictions on use of cash assistance).

Where is the evidence that TANF recipients are purchasing alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, or lottery tickets ... or frequenting adult entertainment establishments in which performers appear nude or partially nude? Is this a legislative effort analogous to the voter fraud concerns, concerns for which Virginia legislators enacted legislation to address a non-problem and at a cost of millions for Virginia taxpayers? How much will this new legislation to harass

impoverished Virginians cost Virginia taxpayers?

We already know of one abusive practice that does unnecessarily cost Virginia taxpayers: the trips Virginia legislators take at the expense of taxpayers. That information is readily available. Why have we not heard of a call to end this offensive practice, a practice that is a real misuse of taxpayer money?

John Horejsi, Coordinator

Social Action Linking Together (SALT)