A column from the Lehigh Valley Morning Call discusses a letter from the state a woman from Emmaus, PA received for her deceased mother. The letter essentially said that Judith Lieberman could no longer receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Benefits because she was dead. “Judith: Due to the death of Judith Lieberman…benefits have been stopped. Remember that you can apply again for SNAP at any time.”
Judith’s daughter, Martha, e-mailed the Morning Call writing that this letter “is the most ridiculous thing that you have probably ever heard about the Department of Welfare, this is not a joke.” She at first said she thought the letter had to be a joke, then seemingly recanted saying, “It was so stupid nobody could even make that up.”
Ultimately, it was revealed that the letter is a policy requirement and its unusual construction is due to the fact that Judith lived alone. It is safe to assume that the process is automated, which is why a second letter was sent to Martha even after the Morning Call contacted Harrisburg about it.
This represents how Department of Welfare offices are often damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Pennsylvania’s system result in the occasional “stupid” letter, but not keeping close track of such things can be costly. In May or 2013 an auditor discovered that “more than 1160” deceased people were drawing welfare benefits, some whose benefits weren’t awarded until after they died.
In a sense, though, this letter does represent how impersonal the system can be. There is no state worker who can effectively manage individual cases, even in the case of death. One also might suggest that it seems a little macabre to share a letter revealing that one’s mother died living alone and in poverty just to poke fun at government inefficiency.