In September, 1935, a law was passed which enables individuals who were age 70 or more to qualify for old age assistance. For several days after its passing, elderly people went to the courthouse and waited in line for their turn to sign up for this relief money.
Two verifications as to the applicant’s age was needed which could be their Bibles, marriage certificates, life insurance policies, and other credentials. A complete life’s history was required on the application blank which was very time consuming. In less than two weeks, over 200 applicants had been filed with the Daviess County Pension Board and it was predicted the application for it would surpass the 400 mark. The oldest lady to apply was 92.
The pensioners had been led to believe they would get approximately $30 a month for single people and $45 dollars a month for married couples, but they were now informed the pension would only be three or four dollars monthly. This was due to the fact the old age pension department only estimated approximately 48,000 would be eligible for the assistance in Missouri, but a census estimated over 145,000 would qualify for the program. Forty-seven state investigators began work throughout the state checking eligibility of pension applicants.
At this point, 78,000 applications for assistance had been filed with the state. If all the applicants proved eligible, the individual’s share would be less than three dollars monthly and over a 15 month period. The pensions were also going to be held back for a period of three months.
In brief, the pensions would range from seven to 12 dollars monthly; however, since the pensioners had to wait three months for their first three checks, the first checks would be for $21 to $36. It also stated that inmates of county infirmaries had the right to make application for the assistance and were entitled to the same compensation as any other person possessing the necessary qualifications.
Some of the facts in regard to the pensions were:
1. All persons over 70 years of age weren’t eligible for assistance, and it was under certain conditions such as the following examples:
– the person must be incapacitated from earning a livelihood and without any means of support.
– must be a citizen of the United States.
– must not at the time of application be an inmate of any prison, jail, insane asylum, etc.
2. A person had to reside in the state five years or more within the nine years preceding application for assistance and for one year next preceding the date of application for assistance.
3. Earnings of the applicant which did not exceed $150 in any calendar year would not be considered.
After some time, an investigation was made in regard to the pensions only to find they had been misused. The pension bill, originally enacted to give families without a living income, a pension with a maximum of $30 per month. Its intentions were to give older citizens an income which would allow them to live in some sort of comfort in their older days. Now, instead of older people getting a pension as was originally intended, some received only a dollar or two and up to $22 or $24, but the higher figures were only used in rare cases when the person was confined to his or her bed. At the same time, many administrators received from $5-6,000 per month.
The problem arose when the law passed by misleading the public voters. The voters believed they were creating a tax for the sole purpose of paying old age pensioners. The receipts for the new tax were not earmarked for pensions or other forms of relief.
The whole amount collected which was approximately $2,000,000 a month went to the general fund which one-third of all receipts were automatically taken for the school fund, and not one dollar of the increased revenue was earmarked for old age and relief. Thus, the yearly increase of $22,000,000 in taxes only allowed approximately $10,000,000 to pay old age pensions and for the relief of crippled children.
— researched by Wilbur Bush