Idaho’s population is estimated to be about 1.75 million people. This count includes everyone including children, immigrants, and an estimate for any illegals that might be in Idaho as well. Of all of these people it is estimated that roughly 500,000 of them are children and around 220,000 are over 65. That puts 2 out of 5 people in the state that are minors or senior citizens with 2-3 minors per 1 senior citizen.
Based on the numbers, 2 out of 5 kids are on Medicaid with just over 200,000 on Medicaid and only around 500,000 kids in the state that gives us a much higher number then even I expected when I went looking. Bear Lake isn’t as reliant on Medicaid as the rest of the state by my estimates but we still have many people who are. I’ll give you my estimates for the county after we look at the numbers for Food Stamps.
The State of Idaho has over 100,000 kids on food stamps giving us 1 out of 5 kids who are in need or roughly 20%. Bear Lake has a food stamp rate of 7.7% with Montpelier being the highest at 10.3%, Georgetown with 5.4%, and Paris 3.6%. If Medicaid is roughly twice the enrollment as food stamps than we can assume the same for Bear Lake with around 15% of Bear Lake kids on Medicaid, or roughly 1 out 6-7. While these enrollments for either Medicaid or Food Stamps are probably concentrated in families where every kid in the family is either enrolled or not enrolled this is still a significant amount.
The total number of households on food stamps is 184. Meaning if numbers are similar across the board that around 360 households have children on Medicaid. In addition to every senior citizen who is enrolled in Medicare (roughly 1 senior citizen per 2-3 minors) this gives us an additional 100-200 households on some form of welfare (go low end and say 120).
On top of that we have several farms around the area that have some sort of farming subsidy (657 different farms have received subsidies over the past 25 years). 30 of these farms received over $100,000 (1 receiving over $4.5 million), 161 receiving between $10-100,000 and the remaining 466 receiving around $10,000 or less. Keep in mind that this is over 25 years.
Total households in valley equal around 2300. If we assume that all households with food stamps also are part of the group that get Medicaid (this is not true) we can adjust our count to cover potential errors and give us the low end estimate instead of a too high of a count. Total households on medicaid, medicare, or receiving subsidies in Bear Lake County is around 1100 or roughly 48%.
Why are we looking at this? Because we need to be a little less judgmental of some of the people who are around us who may be struggling with financial difficulties. I can’t tell you how often I hear someone around here say that Welfare recipients are lazy and need to work. Each of the groups described above is a Welfare recipient, most of them (the farmers for sure) are the hardest workers in the county and are doing their best to get by without being a burden to others. On top of that these numbers don’t include anyone who got a tax return on their taxes which is a type of welfare if the tax return exceeded the amount they paid into their taxes.
There are a lot of good people here in Bear Lake County who are on Welfare, I know several just by the nature of my job, and have befriended several others who are not related to my job. These are good people and chances are that you also know someone on Welfare. With almost half the county on Welfare if you are not, than one of your neighbors is if not both of them. Let us all be kinder with the things we say about those on Welfare because the vast majority of them are good people and are trying their hardest.
Charles Horikami is a Social Studies Teacher at BLMS, and the Legislative District 32 Chair for the Idaho State Republican Party. The views expressed are not representative of the BLSD or of the Idaho State Republican Party. He can be contacted at email@example.com and welcomes all comments and critiques.