Awide range of economists, think tanks and academics surveyed by The Associated Press predict pending census figures will show poverty in America last year climbed to its highest level since the mid-1960s.
Their estimates range from a poverty rate of 15.2 percent to as high as 15.7 percent, suggesting about 1 in 6 people in this country are poor.
This is happening, AP noted, as millions face the prospect of less government aid in the form of unemployment insurance, Medicaid, welfare and food stamps.
With more in need and less assistance, it's important to ensure aid that is available is getting to those truly in need of the basics of life -- food, shelter, clothing and medicine.
Local state Reps. Stan Saylor, Seth Grove and Ron Miller recently sponsored legislation to that end. Their bill would require the Department of Public Welfare and the Department of Community and Economic Development to verify income eligibility of recipients of the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
As we noted at the time, it's not an attack on low-income people. It's about ensuring as many as possible receive help with home heating bills by rooting out those who don't qualify for the program.
The same can be said of states, including Pennsylvania, trying to crack down on welfare abuse -- those who use the taxpayer aid not just for the necessities, but for the frivolous and extravagant. Things like cigarettes, strip club visits and casino gambling.
Pennsylvania already bans alcohol purchases with welfare benefits, and lawmakers now want to restrict their use to housing, toiletries, food, clothing and public transportation.
We're one of 17 states this year that either is trying to restrict welfare purchases or has already done so, according to another AP report.
It's partly the result of Congress, which barred welfare recipients from using their cash assistance in strip clubs, casinos and liquor stores. It was included in legislation signed by President Barack Obama in February to extend a payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits. States must make the changes by 2014.
It sounds more than fair to us, although critics of the restrictions say they're based on stereotypes, and widespread abuse is a myth.
Most beneficiaries are struggling, single mothers, they argue.
But a 2010 investigation by the Los Angeles Times found that $1.8 million in electronic welfare benefits had been taken out of cash machines at California casinos over an eight-month period. That was enough for the state Legislature to prohibit ATM withdrawals at liquor stores, strip clubs and casinos.
Unfortunately, it does happen, although we'd like to think the abusers represent a small fraction of welfare recipients.
If they can afford to gamble or get a tattoo, they simply don't need assistance.
And cracking down on them will ensure more single mothers are able to feed and clothe their children.