Stateline Story

Budget Cuts Hitting Poor in Unusual Ways

State budget cuts are hitting the poor in some unusual ways. Consider the situation in Kansas , where a decision to end state funding for a program that helped poor people pay for funerals means that more people are leaving loved ones' bodies unclaimed at the coroner's office, The Topeka Capital-Journal reports .

Kansas used to pay $550 to families who need help to pay for a relative's funeral. But the state stopped doing that in 2010 to save $520,000 a year. Lawmakers rejected requests to have the money restored in the session that just ended.

The impact can be seen at the Shawnee County Coroner's Office, the paper said. Seven bodies, as well as boxes filled with the cremated remains of seven other people, have gone unclaimed there. If no one claims a body, the county where the person died is responsible for paying for cremation. "It's a problem across the whole country, not just here," says Sharon Mandel, chief medical examiner for Shawnee County.

Elsewhere, other social service programs are getting slashed this year. A program in Florida that distributes unused fresh fruits and vegetables from farmers to senior centers, food pantries, homeless shelters and soup kitchens got its entire $750,000 state allocation zeroed out, The Miami Herald reports . The "Farm Share" program was among several programs axed when Governor Rick Scott vetoed some $615 million from the budget passed by the state legislature.

Other programs that were affected by the governor's veto pen include help for homeless veterans, meals for poor seniors, a council for deafness, cancer research, whooping-cough vaccines for poor mothers, and aid for the paralyzed, the paper says.

And New Mexico plans to end a program that supplements federal food stamp benefits for about 4,000 low-income elderly and disabled people, according to the Associated Press. The assistance will end July 1 because there's no money in the state budget for it. The program cost nearly a half million dollars last year.

Tags: Safety Net