Siphoning Off the Safety Net: How Social Services Agencies are Squeezing Revenue from the Poor and Vulnerable People They’re Meant to Serve

As seen in Stanford Social Innovation Review’s Fall 2016 issue

Revenue schemes that target the poor are not confined to a few jurisdictions or to the justice system. Rather, as Daniel Hatcher documents in his important new book, The Poverty Industry, states and municipalities across the country, working with private contractors, have turned a range of vulnerable populations into sources of income for cash-strapped agencies, general government funds, and corporate coffers. Motivated in part by severe funding cuts, agencies in red states and blue states alike divert money intended to help abused and neglected children, disabled youth, the elderly poor, and impoverished families; state contractors use sophisticated analytics to determine how to squeeze even more dollars from them. “[A]s policy experts across the political spectrum debate the best structure for government aid programs, a massive siphoning of the safety net is occurring behind the scenes,” Hatcher writes. These practices are increasing even in the face of civil rights concerns, lawsuits, and multimillion- dollar fraud settlements.

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Angela Glover Blackwell
Angela Glover Blackwell