Support of a state-administered general assistance program and of state standards for eligibility, benefits, accessibility, and appeals, as well as a program which is adequately and equitably financed.
The League of Women Voters of Indiana supports a general assistance (formerly, “poor relief’) program that is state administered and supervised according to state standards of eligibility, benefits, accessibility, and appeal procedures. This program should fill the gaps that are unmet by categorical assistance in Indiana for those persons who are unable to work, whose earnings are inadequate, or for whom jobs are not available.
Eligibility and benefit standards should be adjustable for local differences and cost-of-living changes. Offices for service should be as close as possible to the target population.
The general assistance program should be equitably financed throughout the state, and financing should be sufficient to meet the needs of the program.
Criteria for general assistance should include the following provisions:
Eligibility should be based on need. Residency, work in exchange for assistance, lack of support by a relative, repayment, or prior application to other social service agencies should not be requirements for assistance; however, referral to other agencies should be made where appropriate, especially to agencies that provide job training and other employment programs.
Decisions on eligibility for emergency assistance should be made within a reasonable time.
Benefits should be sufficient to meet adequate standards for food, clothing, shelter, and other basic needs. Standards should be adjusted for local differences, and revised periodically for cost- of-living changes.
Recipients should have as wide a choice as possible in selecting providers.
Access to services should be made as convenient as possible for all applicants. Regular office hours, including evening hours, should be established.
Provision should be made for emergency services after office hours and on weekends. These hours should be prominently posted and publicized. Applications should be accepted in person, by telephone or letter, or by a designee; but at all times the privacy of the applicant should be protected. If the applicant so desires, an advocate and/or translator should be present at all interviews or proceedings.
Appeal procedures should provide applicants with a fair and meaningful opportunity to have their requests for assistance reviewed. Appeal procedures should be prominently posted and also explained to the applicant orally when an application is denied or assistance is discontinued. Appeal decisions should be based only on information provided at hearings, must be made in writing, and must include reasons for the decision. Appellants should be permitted to examine records pertaining to them and to use those documents as evidence.
Competent, trained personnel should administer the general assistance program, hired and compensated according to state personnel policies. Annual detailed reports should be required from each general assistance office. Supervision, accountability, and enforcement of state standards and procedures should be lodged in a public office at state level. Administrative boards at state and local levels should be representative of the communities they serve and should convene regular public hearings to elicit information and opinions from the general public. All rules regarding administration of the general assistance program should be written, posted, distributed, and otherwise made available to all applicants and to the general public, in English and in other languages where appropriate.
The state should bear the major cost of financing both administration and benefits of the general assistance program, with local governments sharing the financial responsibility. Budgets should be based on the requirements of the program for sufficient funds to serve all who meet state standards of eligibility and need.
Each general assistance office should maintain an open relationship with other agencies in the community, distributing information on available general assistance services and procedures and keeping on file an up-to-date list of services provided by others. Referrals to other agencies should be made where appropriate.
In implementing this position, the state board is to be guided by the following member preferences: