US Aid Rules Perplex Needy in Downturn

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted May 9, 2009 6:27 PM CDT
In this April 7, 2009 photo, job seekers line up at a National Career Fair outside a Holiday Inn in Long Beach, Calif.   (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
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(Newser) – Hobbled by the recession, millions of Americans are struggling to navigate benefit programs that dispense aid in often arbitrary and frustrating ways, the New York Times reports. In many cases, it's all about geography. Need food stamps? It's better to live in Missouri than California. Unemployment? The lucky live in Idaho, not South Dakota. Even within states, complex rules for releasing aid can stymie those in need.

One Massachusetts mother blames the premature birth of her child on being denied unemployment insurance, thanks to a complex state law. "It puts incredible stress on your body," she said. Seeking solutions, President Obama has freed up $100 billion, but some governors are rejecting provisions for unemployment insurance. Out-of-work Americans are caught in the middle. “The system for helping Americans in need is very fragmented, and it confuses everyone,” one analyst said.