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Welfare, not charity

May 10, 2018

This piece represents the opinion of the author.

To the Editors,

I’m writing to comment on what the Orient reported in the article “Facilities workers struggle to make ends meet” as “forms of charity” to which Bowdoin has referred employees in times of economic hardship.

While resources like food banks often rely on donations, the complex web of state funded programs such as food stamps that make up the social safety net are not charities. They’re welfare programs that are commonplace in the lives of millions of Americans including low-wage workers.

To falsely label these programs as charities imposes moral connotations that can dissuade people from applying for assistance that they need to subsidize their expenses and supplement their incomes. Eligibility for welfare is governed by laws and regulations, not a moral code.

That Bowdoin employees struggle with the national trends of increased cost of living and stagnant wages should come as no surprise. The College should be mindful of what a living wage means, and how it’s changing in southern Maine. However, Bowdoin’s endowed funds to support employees with emergency assistance in times of hardship should be seen as a progressive employer practice rather than act of charity. Those funds may be available through General Assistance and other welfare programs in Maine, but the barriers are likely to be higher.

Oriana Farnham is a member of the Class of 2015.

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