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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Today is the second installment in a special series on General Assistance-Unemployable, a state program that provides assistance to adults who cannot work because of disability and are not eligible for other programs.

Yesterday, we talked about how GA-U fills an essential role in our state's health care infrastructure. Today, I want to point out (again) that similar programs exist in most other states. In fact, thirty-one states have statewide programs and another nine states have programs that are available in some counties, but not others. In total, only 11 states do not provide similar assistance.

We've blogged on this before, but I feel the need to do it again because lawmakers continue to claim that Washington’s program is unique. On Tuesday, for example, a State Representative claimed in an executive session debate that Washington is “one of very few states" that have a GA-U program. He then went on to say that "no surrounding states have this program."

Let's be clear about this:
  • Almost every Western state has a similar program. California, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico all have programs statewide and Montana has county-level programs.
  • In the Great Plains: Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota all have statewide programs and North Dakota has county programs.
  • Every state north of the Mason-Dixon Line has general assistance (Wisconsin being the only one without a fully statewide program).
  • Six Southern states have county-level general assistance programs: Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.
  • Alaska, Hawaii, and DC all have general assistance.
  • Twenty-nine states also provide medical assistance along with basic living assistance.

To be honest, I've never understood why the idea that other states do not have general assistance would be an effective argument against our state’s program, even if it were true. The parent in me wants to ask, "If all your friends jumped off a bridge . . ." We should do the right thing in Washington State because it’s consistent with our values, not because most everybody else is doing it. (Even though most everybody else is doing it.)

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