Erica Pearson, Tanyanika Samuels, Kenneth Lovett and Adam Lisberg, New York Daily News, August 12, 2009
A $200 back-to-school giveaway for needy kids sparked a mad rush for money on the streets of New York on Tuesday.
“It’s free money!” said Alecia Rumph, 26, who waited in a Morris Park, Bronx, line 300 people deep for the cash to buy uniforms and book bags for her two kids.
“Thank God for Obama. He’s looking out for us.”
Thousands of people lined up at banks and check-cashing shops to withdraw the cash that magically appeared on their electronic benefit cards.
Some rushed out because of rumors the money would vanish by the end of the day.
The no-strings-attached money went to families receiving food stamps or welfare.
Every child between 3 and 17 was eligible for $200, which worked out to 813,845 kids across the state–including 498,866 in the city.
Billionaire philanthropist George Soros gave $35 million toward the program, with $140 million in federal stimulus funds routed through state government making up the rest.
Gov. Paterson and Mayor Bloomberg joined Soros to announce the payments at Public School 208 in Harlem, where the billionaire reminisced that as a penniless student in London, he survived because of a handout he got from Quakers.
Paterson’s Republican critics blasted the giveaway, saying he should spend the money to reduce property taxes.
“It is a plan that is ripe for fraud and abuse,” said Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos. “This is a totally irresponsible use of federal stimulus money.”