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PROBE: July 5, 2001

July 05, 2001

QUESTION: Is it true that resident aliens cannot collect Social Security even though they paid into the system during their working years? — Older American, El Centro

That is not true. Resident aliens may collect Social Security if they have paid into the system for 40 quarters, a total of 10 years.

Social Security Supplemental Income, also known as SSI, is a different matter. That's the program that puts a floor under the income of seniors drawing very small Social Security pensions.

Many retirees who worked at low-paying jobs and draw low Social Security benefits depend on the supplemental income.

Basically a welfare program, SSI underwent changes under the Clinton welfare-reform program.

If you think you qualify, apply for it or at least ask about it. It's complicated and is subject to changing interpretations.

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QUESTION: My 14-year-old was turned down for two summer jobs because we make too much money. I got married in April and they use my husband's income and we no longer qualify for things we were eligible for when I was single.

Why can't they use only part of his wages or none of it? My husband is not my son's biological father. My husband is not objecting but my son wanted to help this summer. — Disappointed, Imperial Valley

We know you and your son are disappointed because your new husband made you too rich for a program to help low-income kids. Join the crowd and count your blessings.

We get similar cries every summer from folks who can't imagine they make too much money by any definition. Most programs designed to help low-income families count all household income.

QUESTION: The Calipatria City Council apparently is not aware its attitudes are racist. The last council meeting was packed with protesting residents who didn't know streets were being renamed until they read it in the Imperial Valley Press.

One person wanted to know where the meeting notices were posted. City Clerk Cathy Hoff said the notices were posted at City Hall, the library and the post office.

When it was suggested the notices should be posted on the east side in both English and Spanish, Hoff said, "I am not going to do it. These people live here and should know English."

I say it's a typical racist response! — Getting Involved, Calipatria

We heard you packed the City Council chambers. We are impressed! As we write this, the Fourth of July fireworks are exploding outside.

Your efforts to name a street after a Hispanic pioneer is democracy in action. If you want a street, fight for it. Don't whine about racism. That's so old hat.

Practice the art of politics. That means schmoozing with elected officials when you need to and showing your political muscles with a crowd at council meetings — and a stack of signed petitions.

Now that you're rolling, don't settle for crumbs. Go for a big street on the west side. There's no more segregation. Hispanics live all over town. Main Street is a nice big street.

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