Legislators Jay Gould, R-Ashville, and John Runkle, R-Stockton, have a not-so-unique idea when it comes to welfare benefits for potential recipients: make sure those who are doing the taking have established a residency in Chautauqua County.
Why would that be not so unique? First, because similar requests are flowing steadily from tapped-out county governments to the state Legislature. And, because residents here already expect this with many local organizations, foundations and fund-raisers.
As we already know, Chautauqua County and its residents are a very giving community. In terms of our county foundations and non-profits, our region has the potential to assist agencies and individuals with hundreds of millions of dollars. These donations come from current and former residents who want to help those who live here in Chautauqua County, not elsewhere.
What we also do not want to do, however, is to help those who are not willing to help themselves. This resolution of a residency requirement fits that mold.
"A lot of counties have been doing this," Gould said. "If it comes up to vote in the (state) Legislature, we'd like them to vote for residency requirements."
Christine Schuyler, county social services commissioner and public health director, said the county reviews more than 700 public assistance applications for benefits a month with 20 of them coming from out of state. In some cases, such as emergencies and domestic abuse, applicants are still allowed to receive assistance. Legislators tabled the resolution - which only makes a request of the state government to consider implementing residency requirements- to be sure the existing exemptions are included.
The number of out-of-county applications isn't overly large, but the sheer cost of public assistance to county taxpayers makes it necessary to be sure assistance is limited to county residents. It is much the same idea as food pantries whose resources are stretched to the limit requiring proof of residency, a change brought about by people hopping from pantry to pantry throughout southern Chautauqua County.
We do not want our United Ways or our other non-profit funding organizations outside of our region. We donate to these organizations because we know the money stays local.
County officials must start to demand that same mindset from the state for county welfare recipients.