The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

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Opinion

December 14, 2013

Getting out of poverty today is a lot easier said than done

- — Helping people to get out of poverty status is a difficult chore. It’s especially difficult when people don’t want to get out.

That was made clear in a Herald story Thursday as Ron Errett, director of Mercer County Community Action Agency, spoke at a meeting of the United Way of Mercer County planning committee.

Errett pointed out that it is very difficult for a jobless person to take a job when they will have less money and benefits to work with in raising their families.

He stressed: “Forty years ago I was hearing ‘show me the way out.’ ... I just see a lot less motivation now.”

That’s a problem society faces today.

While the government has provided assistance to people who are struggling financially, the desire to find a job is less because the money a person will make won’t go as far as the government benefits.

So what is the answer? How do we help families who are second- and third-generation welfare recipients?

How can we expect a single mom who is offered a job, to take the work but lose medical assistance and food stamps for her children?

Yes, there are people who take advantage of the system. But there are millions of people who simply have no way out.

Some government officials in various states want to raise the minimum wage. That is a “catch 22” situation. While the employees may get raises, the companies that employ them may not be able to stay viable or may have to lay off some of the workers just to stay alive.

The recent meeting of the UWMC planning committee could stimulate some new direction for the Mercer County unit and its board to consider. The Erie County UW has set a goal of reducing “the number of families struggling to meet their basic needs by one-third before 2025.”

It’s easy to set goals, but that sounds like a real pipe-dream. Unless you give a lot more people reasons to get away from government assistance, that’s not even close to reality. But that’s certainly something to consider.

On a national level, Republicans claim that Democrats are too liberal in helping the poor, which creates the lack of desire to work. Democrats claim Republicans don’t care about the poor.

Somewhere the two parties need to reach a happy medium and find a way out of the national dilemma.

One way is to have stricter investigation on some of the federal funding.

Some 8 million-plus people are receiving Social Security disability assistance. Does anyone really believe all these people are disabled? How much fraud is really being committed?

It may take people smarter than me to solve this problem. (Not that there are that many of them, especially in Congress.).

But if people put their heads together, just maybe this country can move forward and help eliminate some of the poverty that holds us all back.

The Herald’s Lynn Saternow writes this weekly column for the Opinion Page. He can be reached at lsaternow@sharonherald.com.

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