COLUMBIA - Democratic gubernatorial candidate Vincent Sheheen called for more transparency at the Department of Social Services on Wednesday, while citing stories by The Post and Courier that highlighted issues with the state's welfare to work program.
From the party's headquarters, Sheheen blasted Haley on the privatization of the cabinet agency's welfare-to-work program and for a campaign advertisement that rolled out earlier in August called "Paychecks."
"Nikki Haley is spending more of our tax dollars to make government achieve less," Sheheen said. "She's just padding the numbers and that's wrong."
South Carolina privatized in 2012 the part of the welfare-to-work program designed to get people off welfare and into a job, in an effort to streamline the process.
But The Post and Courier reported Saturday that critics question the outsourcing of the program, and Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Columbia, said at the time taxpayers are getting the wrong end of the privatization deal. Critics said the department's efforts are more about numbers than results and cloud the real picture of poverty in the Palmetto State.
"Only a hopeless liberal like Vince Sheheen would rather keep people on welfare then help them move into the workforce," said Chaney Adams, spokeswoman for Haley's campaign. "This successful program that has added to our state's massive reduction in unemployment in the last four years is great news for South Carolina and bad news for Vince's endless political ambitions."
Sheheen also said that DSS contracts have gone to Haley campaign contributors. ResCare's advocacy fund donated $1,000 in 2010 and $500 in 2011 to Haley's campaign. Maximus donated $3,500 in 2010 to the Republican Governors Association South Carolina PAC and $1,000 to Haley's campaign in 2011 before the contracts were awarded, according to state ethics commission filings.
The governor's spokesman, Doug Mayer, reiterated on Wednesday a similar quote he provided to The Post and Courier on Friday.
"Gov. Haley has always believed that the best way to take care of our South Carolina families is to provide more and better opportunities for them to find work in our state - and that is exactly what the welfare to work program has done," said Mayer in a written statement.
Sheheen also highlighted on Wednesday an Aug. 11 Post and Courier story in which advocates for the poor said the Haley administration's desire to push people off the welfare rolls and into low-paying, minimum wage jobs won't solve any of the state's long-term poverty issues.
The number of people who received supplemental food assistance, or SNAP, has gone up by about 6,000 from fiscal 2012 to fiscal 2013. Over the same time period, around 41,000 people were added to Medicaid rolls, state and federal figures show.
"Getting more than 20,000 of our citizens into a job and working is something that DSS takes great pride in and is one of ways we help make South Carolina a better place to live," said DSS spokeswoman Marilyn Matheus. "The positive changes that take place when a person moves from welfare and starts working are endless and no amount of politically motivated criticism will ever change that. As an agency, we believe that the best way to take care of a family is to get someone a job and that is something that DSS will never stop working to help make happen."
During his news conference, Sheheen did not provide examples of people who have received the alleged raw end of the deal. He did argue, however, that previous investigations into DSS have been triggered by allegations that start off with minimal information and later unravel.
"The continuing investigations into the fake numbers relating to children's deaths after DSS involvement began just this way: with workers and advocates and concerned citizens seeing the failure to tell the truth by Gov. Haley and her appointees, and feeling compelled to speak out," Sheheen said. "And now, that is happening again."
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