Welfare-unemployment double dip comes to an end | NevadaAppeal.com

Welfare-unemployment double dip comes to an end

Geoff Dornan, Appeal Capitol Bureau

The days of double dipping are over for Nevadans on welfare.

Gov. Kenny Guinn exempted unemployment insurance from being counted as income for those seeking welfare benefits after the economic slump that followed Sept. 11.

That allowed many people who lost jobs in the ensuing economic slump to collect both unemployment benefits and welfare. More importantly for many, it allowed them to access Medicaid benefits, the Child Health Assurance Program, Nevada Checkup and Low Income Home Energy Assistance.

But, with unemployment figures beginning to recover and the state’s welfare reserves dropping rapidly, Guinn announced Wednesday the exemption will end Sept. 1.

Welfare Administrator Nancy Ford said that could affect 670 individuals receiving cash assistance under Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. She said it could also affect 975 cases where recipients used the exemption to qualify for Medicaid and other programs.

“For a lot of families, I think the medical was a more critical issue,” she said.

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She said the impact of the decision may eliminate or reduce some people’s cash grants from welfare. Or, she said, it may make them ineligible for Medicaid.

The average single parent in Nevada receives $271 a month from temporary assistance. The average two-parent family on the program gets $342 a month.

Added to unemployment grants of up to $430 a month, the combination provided qualified families about $700 in benefits a month to get through hard times and back on their financial feet.

She said, however, some of those losing temporary assistance benefits because of the change may still be eligible for Medicaid and other programs on the list.

She also said many of those who used the exemption already may have expired their unemployment benefits, in which case they would still qualify for temporary assistance and Medicaid.

Ford said welfare officials won’t know exactly how many families are affected until October since the September temporary assistance payments have gone out already.

Nevada’s welfare caseload rose from 20,000 to more than 34,000 following the layoffs caused by Sept. 11. As a result, Ford said, welfare’s reserves have dropped to just about $15 million. She said with signs of recovery over the past two months, that should be enough to get the state through this fiscal year. Guinn lifted the exemption to get the most mileage out of the remaining resources.

“Nearly a year ago, with a spike in unemployment after the Sept. 11 tragedy, we took this extraordinary action during a time when an unprecedented number of people had been laid off,” said Guinn in a written statement. “I now must preserve benefits for the most needy individuals.”

Ford said the good news for those losing benefits is that there are now more jobs available in Nevada again and welfare workers are there to help refer people to them.