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Accountability makes all the difference

Last week, I was privileged to sit through a presentation on Southern Rivers Energy’s Operation Round Up. Through this program, members of the cooperative can have their bills rounded up to the nearest dollar and the money goes into a fund for distribution to needy applicants in SRE’s service area. If my on-the-spot calculations are correct, this program has resulted in about $100,000 per year over 15 years being plowed back into the community and many good things have been accomplished with those funds. In her remarks, SRE’s Erin Cook noted that those applying for grants through the program, whether they are funded or not, are prohibited from applying for another grant for two years. ‘We don’t want this grant to become a line item in their budget that they think they will receive every year,’ Cook said. I thought that was a great idea – an idea born out of the co-op’s accountability to its owner-members. Imagine, if you will, that sort of accountability coming out of Washington. Last week, President Trump proposed a cut in waivers that would lead to more food stamp recipients having to work for their benefits. The food stamp program now bears the more politically correct label Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Under current law, non-disabled, working age adults without dependents have to have jobs. They can only receive benefits for three months out of every 36 months unless they work or participate in training programs at least 20 hours per week. But, there’s a catch. When it comes to government freebies, there’s always a catch. States can waive the work requirements in areas with high unemployment or where there is an insufficient number of jobs as defined by the Department of Labor, a government bureaucracy which is, by definition, inefficient. Trump wants to limit those state waivers and some projections indicate his plan would remove 750,000 people from the food stamp rolls. Opponents say this will be unfair to those who have no high school diploma or GED. High school is available for free with free food and you can’t walk around the block in a major city and not find a free adult education program. So, that argument does not wash. Those who are without a diploma or GED are in that shape because they dropped out of school and have not made the effort to atone for that error in judgement. It has become hard to sell the ‘˜no jobs’ argument as well. Initial claims for state unemployment dropped to 202,000 for the week ended March 30. That is the lowest in 49 years. In our area, the jobless rate for February dropped to 3.9%, down over a half percent from the month before. Jobs are out there. Employers are hiring. It doesn’t take a genius to deduct that at last a portion of those on food stamps do not work because they just don’t want to. Many say forcing food stamp recipients to work is a win-win for both the unemployed and the taxpayer who, through no choice of his own, pays for it all. ‘Work has dignity. Work is opportunity. Work is not a dirty word. Able-bodied adults cannot be kept on the sidelines while we witness historically low unemployment and a record high seven million open jobs,’ Rep. Dusty Johnson of South Dakota argued. The problem is the recipients are counting on the food stamp program as a continued line item in their budget. Without that line item, they would be forced to earn. Electrical cooperatives are accountable to their member-owners. Imagine the streamlined, efficient government we could enjoy if those in Washington were accountable to the taxpayers. Accountability makes all the difference. A note to those who are Southern Rivers members. Only about 40% of you participate in Operation Round Up. As Mrs. Cook noted, the most participation could cost you is 99 cents per month or $11.88 per year. Operation Round Up is making a tremendous impact yet the opportunity is there to more than double that impact. Sign up the next time you pay your bill. It will be worth it.

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