The New York Times has an interesting article today about food stamp use. The number of Americans reporting food stamps as their only income soared 50 percent over the past two years, and the number of food stamp recipients has climbed by about 10 million during this time, resulting in a program that now feeds 1 in 8 Americans and nearly 1 in 4 children.
The on-line edition of the Times includes a map of the country that shows food stamp usage in each county. Looking at New Jersey, we once again see how Cumberland County is distinguished in the state. We are the county with the highest food stamp usage. Thirteen percent of the population, including 27 percent of the county’s children, receive food stamps. Since 2007, food stamp use has increased by 17 percent.
Now here’s my problem: We have an agency in the county, Tri-County Community Action Agency, that is supposed to fight poverty. This organization’s income was $41.6 MILLION in 2008. It’s President, Al Kelly, received close to $170,000 in compensation in that year. Vice President Ed Bethea received about $130,000. Susan James, Housing VP, received almost $102,000, and Ronald Johnson, Director of Finance, received almost $92,000. Something tells me these are not the folks on food stamps. Our county anti-poverty agency is surely working for them.
Now recall Al Kelly is a Friend of Lou. He serves on the CCIA board that fired Steve Wymbs and hired another Friend of Lou, Don Rainear. Lou in turn makes sure that government money — state and federal money coming down, as well as county money — is funneled to Kelly’s agency. We saw that big time a year ago when juvenile justice money that could have been used well by municipalities went instead to Tri-County, which gave it to a shaky new organization. Who knows how it has been used.
Citizens have been able to steer a small bit of funds to a number of very needy and very good nonprofits in the county through the county Human Services Advisory Council. With the departure of Ethan Aronoff, the Council’s director, Lou is apparently mulling over whether the Council should even continue. In Lou’s view, citizen involvement is just a nuisance; if he can dispense the funds himself, he can buy more loyalty and get more votes.
Well, I’ll end this Sunday morning rant. The Times data just got to me. So many people are in need in the county — many are hard-working people who have fallen on hard times — and the pigs slurp loudly at the trough.
So it goes.