New York Stimulates Electronics

Early this week, local news stations around New York delivered many heartwarming stories of low-income families reacting to a $200 per child windfall posted to the bank accounts of families receiving food stamps or welfare. The money, intended to buy back-to-school supplies, was authorized by Gov. Paterson and came from federal stimulus funds. Billionaire progressive George Soros contributed $35M of his own money to the $175M fund, saying that he’d once been a recipient of donated school supplies as a poor child.

However, as these things tend to go, reports are now coming in that much of the money was apparently spent on video games, cell phones, and other electronic devices, as stores report unanticipated runs on those items.

Wegmans and Tops report that ATMs in their stores ran out of cash on Tuesday, the day the money was deposited to food stamp accounts. The county reports that employees at the Wal-Mart store on Hudson Avenue called the Department of Human Services to say they thought welfare fraud was going on because there was a run on high-end electronics. The stores received no notice of the program and would have been prepared had they known, spokeswomen from Tops and Wegmans said. The ATMs first ran out in Syracuse, then the shortage spread to stores around the state, said Jo Natale, director of media relations at Wegmans. By then it was too late to get more cash to the machines, which are run by Wegmans, she said. Tops reported that people would go through the checkout to purchase a pack of gum in order to get cash back from their food stamp debit card and repeat the process, as only $40 is allowed at a time, said communications manager Katie McKenna.

Critics say that a voucher program, in which the funds could only be exchanged for clothes and other school supplies, would have been better. No kidding. Can New York do anything right? Get ready for the wingnuts to latch onto this story. Even if only a small percentage of the windfall went to cell phones or whatever, they’ll find examples and scream and scream.