Jay Jochnowitz, the State Editor for the Albany Times Union blogged about Mark Dunlea the Executive Director of the Hunger Action Network of New York State and his efforts to draw attention to the fact that the welfare grant in NYS has not been raised since 1990. Mr. Dunlea is attempting to live on the basic welfare grant for one week and has been documenting his experience. Below please find the original blog entry for Mr. Jochnowitz and links to Mr. Dunlea’s diary entries.
Hunger activist Mark Dunlea is marking the days before the Legislature returns to town by trying to live on the state’s basic welfare grant of $25.85 a week to call attention to the fact that lawmakers haven’t changed the allowance since 1990. That’s longer, he notes, than judges in the state have gone without a pay raise, even though more attention is being given to the plight of judges who are living with stagnant six-figure salaries.
The weekly figure doesn’t include other aid he’d hypothetically be getting from the government to cover rent, food, and energy, although, he notes, it’s a big leap of faith to assume public assistance fully covers those needs.
Dunlea is maintaining a daily account of how difficult it is to pull this off as he calculates the impact on his budget of even little things like a broken light switch or traveling locally, not to mention paying for a phone or his son’s tuition (his son and wife, Judith Enck, who is Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s deputy secretary for the environment, aren’t participating).
Technically, Dunlea has blown a good chunk of his grant just by maintaining an e-mail account to send out the daily diary he’s keeping. As he points out, “Now I am understanding why so many people who looked at this exercise said it was impossible. One has to cheat to pretend to live on welfare.”
Dunlea is one of a number of activists who are taking this “welfare challenge,” and who plan to talk about the experience Jan. 8 when they hold the annual “People’s State of the State Rally” outside the Capitol at noon.