By CRAIG FREILCH
More than $200 million from federal and state sources pours into St. Lawrence County each year to provide health care, food, heating assistance and other welfare benefits about 30,000 low-income residents.
That means about 27 percent of the county’s 111,963 citizens -- or one out of every 3.7 people -- receives benefits from the county Department of Social Services. And on average, each gets $6,666 in benefits each year, or about $128 a week.
Medicaid, the health care assistance program for low-income people, at $170 million to $180 million last year, dwarfs all the other DSS programs combined, according to Social Services Commissioner Chris Rediehs.
But other Social Services benefits include:
• SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program commonly known as Food Stamps, at $25.8 million disbursed to county households in 2013.
• Temporary Assistance, often referred to as the basic welfare benefit, at $7.8 million in 2013.
• Home Energy Assistance Program, or HEAP, at $7 million.
• Help with day care costs at $1.5 million.
"These benefits help more than just the people who receive them," said Rediehs.
"The one out of every three or four people in the county are our neighbors, our families that get help directly for food, fuel, hospital stays," he said.
That money cycles through the grocery stores, fuel oil distributors, providers of medical services, banks, and the variety of retail and wholesale businesses we all see and use every day, he added.
The DSS benefits are not from local taxes, Rediehs said. But of course it is tax money, collected from all U.S. and New York citizens.
"St. Lawrence County taxes are not what we're talking about."