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King. The Province of Manitoba pays 25 percent of the amount expended in the Province for old-age pensions. In addition, the Province pays the total cost of administration.
We have an act that is simple in its terms. To qualify one must have reached the age of 70 years, must have been a resident in Canada for 20 years and in the Province of Manitoba for at least 5 years, must be a British subject-the only exception being the married woman who, before her marriage, was a British subject and is now a widowand have an income not in excess of $365 per year. The maximum payment is $20 a month or $240 per year, and the average payment is somewhere in the neighborhood of $19 per month. At the present time we are paying between 11,000 and 12,000 pensioners each month.
Incidentally, I note from the very excellent report prepared by Mr. McLogan's committee that it is the intention of many of your States to lower the age limit to 65. An elementary study of your census tables, if they are arranged in age groups, will show you that that will double the cost of old-age pensions in the United States over and above what it is in Canada. The cost of the pension scheme that is outlined would mean an expenditure of rather more than a billion dollars a year in the United States. It is to be regretted that those persons who have tried to induce governments to undertake pension systems have invariably underestimated very considerably the amount of money required to meet the bill. In 1908, when Mr. Hasquith introduced the first old-age pension bill in Great Britain, he told the British House of Commons that actuaries had made a very careful study of the whole situation and that they had assured him that the total annual cost would not exceed 6 million pounds, and inside of 5 years the annual cost was more than double what Mr. Hasquith considered his outside estimate.
I had a very interesting experience some 6 or 7 years ago when a neighboring Province came in on the scheme. The chairman of the commission appointed to administer old-age pensions wrote to me, asking if, in view of our experience, I could give him the number of persons in his Province who would probably apply for pensions under the conditions and would probably be found to be entitled to pensions. I took the last census tables I could get for that Province, had the artuarial life-expectancy tables applied to the under-age groups up to the time that he actually asked me to make the estimate, took the percentage of that group that had been paid in Manitoba, and wrote him that he could expect on the first of December following, for the purposes of making up a budget, to pay 39,000 pensioners. He wrote and thanked me profusely for all the time and trouble that I had spent on the job, but said that he could assure me, from a personal investigation he had made and from a census, that 22,000 would be the most ther would have on their list. On the first of December I wrote and asked him, and he was paying 38,942.
The experience in old-age pensions in Canada seems to show that of the age group beyond 70, as shown in your census records, roughly 40 percent will be found eligible under the $365-a-year clause. That was the experience of Australia after Australia had been operating an old-age pension for some 12 years. That experience has been rather thrown out of gear by the serious financial condition in which we have found ourselves in the whole world and in this North American continent of ours. At the present time in Manitoba we are paying just about 50 percent of the total number of persons within the age group 70 years and over.
We have found the problem of administration not too difficult. Some 8 years ago, when the Province of Manitoba decided to go into the scheme, the Premier of the Province asked the workmen's compensation commission to organize the set-up, saying that as soon as we got it organized he would relieve us of the work. That was more than 8 years ago and we are still carrying on the job.
The determination of age is rather difficult in many cases. You will find that the people from Central Europe, or from Europe generally, can produce birth certificates. When they are from Central Europe, I suggest that you scrutinize them with more than ordinary You will find them, as a rule, giving the date of birth and underneath a transcription in Latin of that date. We used to find that on some birth certificates an erasure had been made in the figures; for instance a person born in 1869 would be shown as having been born in 1861, by just eliminating the loop of the nine. But most of these people did not know that right beneath was a translation in Latin of the figures. Also, persons who could not qualify were able, by the payment of a suitable fee, to get a birth certificate for any age they wanted to name. I did not know that until a friend of mine in northern Manitoba wrote to me in connection with the application of an individual for an old-age pension. My friend wrote that the papers were all right, but that he had known the individual for 20 years and could not figure out how he could be 70 years of age. I wrote to the consul, asking if he would have a check made of the date. He replied that he had asked a judge of the supreme court, who held trials in that area, and who was a friend of his, to visit the church where that record was made and personally to supervise the transcript of the birth certificate. To my amazement I found a difference of 8 years between the certificate which had been sent in and the certificate which was transcribed under the watching eye of a supreme court judge. It could not have been a clerical error, because in both cases the figures were translated into Latin words.
Our greatest help has been the tie-up with the Federal census authorities, who have been good enough to search for us the censuses of 30 years or more back for records of any person who applies for an old-age pension. Old Bibles are brought in as evidence of age.
Two or three weeks ago one was brought in. The ink looked rather recent, and I suggested to the old lady and her daughter that it seemed almost as if that date had been written in not so very long ago. The old lady said that the Bible had been in the family for many years. I looked at the flyleaf and it was printed in 1913. So it must have been some years after her birth that it was printed. But the census tie-up is remarkably accurate. Age is fairly difficult to establish, but when you get baptismal certificates they are pretty good, though of course the birth certificate is best, unless it has been forged. Baptismal records are very good, and the Roman Catholic friends keep the best records. Evidence of birth is one of the very difficult problems of administration. Residence can be verified in directories, and you can always find someone who knows where the person has lived for the preceding 20 years. The only person I ever had any real trouble with was an old man who had been a miner in the Yukon country. The Federal authorities were rather peeved that I could not fix a street address for the old boy, but we got over that difficulty.
You will find little or no difficulty, if your experience is like ours, with nationality. Your real difficulty will come when you try to establish minima. A recent amendment to our act placed the determination of minima in the first instance with the local council, with an appeal to our board. We have always found the councils of the municipalities or districts rather more generous in the matter of estimating the minimum than even we were. We have had some experience in getting refunds. We file liens on the property, and then when the old person dies we try to recover what we can. We have not been very successful in that-last year we recovered about one-half of I percent of the money expended, because most of the old people are poor. I remember one old chap brought to me a suitcase full of stock certificates that he had accumulated. He said that some day they would make me rich. We had them in our safe for 2 or 3 years and then, at his request, I took them to a reputable firm of brokers. They said there was not one in the whole bunch that was worth the paper it was printed on.
In our small Province we are administering between 2% and 3 million dollars each year. Our cost of administration is very low. Last year it was less than 1 percent of the total amount expended.
I am glad to have had this opportunity of speaking to this gathering. I recognize the community, the remarkable similarity of our problems. You can and do help us, and if there is anything we can do to repay you we will be only too glad to do it.
Chairman DAVIE. Our next speaker, Mr. H. J. Berrodin, of the Ohio Department of Public Welfare, is unable to be present, but I hare here a paper which he has prepared for this discussion, and I wish it read into the record.
[Mr. Berrodin's paper was read by the secretary, as follows:)
Mr. BERRODIN. It seems to me that the approach to the administration of old-age aid or assistance, commonly called old-age pensions, depends considerably upon the philosophy of those in charge of the administration. The State laws provide the basic principles which are to govern the administration, but there is still a wide range of problems left to the sound discretion of those in charge of administering the law. The law lays the foundation, as it were, and the administrator must build the superstructure. If he is thoroughly sympathetic with the social security idea and has devoted his own thought and labor toward developing public opinion on that subject, he will give a much more humanitarian and liberal administration of the law than one who has not been intimately associated with this program for social justice. I have been identified with this great cause for many years and am happy in having helped to make it the law of the land.
Naturally, therefore, we have brought to the administration of the law in Ohio a sympathetic attitude in harmony with our previous activities. Section 29 of the Ohio law provides in part as follows: “This act shall be liberally construed to accomplish the purposes thereof." I am fully in accord with this provision, and from the beginning of my administration I have been guided by the spirit of this section in dealing with the many problems which have confronted us, although under our Ohio law the aid granted does not constitute a pension. Still, public opinion demands that the word "need” as used in the law should not be interpreted too literally. Too technical construction would not permit the granting of sufficient aid to give the aged that “adequate assistance" to which they are entitled, and which the Federal Social Security Act contemplates.
This afternoon I want to discuss three of the most important questions which confront an administrator of old-age assistance. The first is that of our attitude toward responsible relatives. In Ohio the only legally responsible relatives are the adult children and the husband or wife of the applicant for aid. The children, if financially able to take care of their parent or parents, are responsible by law for their support, for which the husband is responsible by virtue of the law and the marriage relationship. If he is unable to support his wife, then she is responsible to the extent to which she is able to contribute. The statement of the law as to the financial responsibility of the relatives for the support of their parents is a simple matter, but the application of the law to the facts, and the determination of responsibility, present problems which only a broad understanding of the factors involved and a practical common-sense viewpoint can hope to solve with justice to all parties concerned.
In the so-called Sherrill Survey, the Ohio Division of Aid for the Aged was roundly criticized because it did not press the relatives more strongly for support. An investigation disclosed that most of the cases on which the criticism was based were not because of responsible relatives at all, but because of other relatives who had been taking care of the applicants, perhaps for years; and it was only natural that in the midst of the depression they would seek to unload their burden onto the State, which had provided support for just such cases. In many of the cases cited, these relatives were not really able financially to keep the applicants, even in normal times.
Where the responsible relative is a wage earner and married, his first concern should be for his own family, and he should not be asked to support his parents, unless he is earning a saving wage; and 90 percent of wage earners in this country today are not earning a saving wage. If there are children, the responsible relative should be allowed to lay aside sufficient money to rear and educate them; also to set aside funds for sickness and future unemployment and inevitable old age. If he is paying for a home, he should be permitted to amortize the principal over a period of peak income, depending largely on his age. If his age is less than 35 years, he should be allowed 10 years' amortization. If past 35 years of age, 3 to 5 years. The law was not intended to lower the standard of living of American people; but if we saddle too much of the load upon the children by way of parent support, we will do that very thing. If we should exact the last ounce of flesh from the responsible relative and cause him to lose his home, it would discourage thrift and most certainly impoverish him to such an extent that he too would eventually build himself up for old-age assistance. We do not think that a responsible relative should be denied even an automobile in these days when automobiles have become necessities in so many families and play such an important part in the well-being and comfort of families.
So that the problem of the responsible relative insofar as it affects the administration of the old-age assistance laws is one that must be considered from many angles. The question whether the relative is financially responsible for the support of his parent cannot be determined by any fixed, arbitrary standard of income applicable to all alike, but is one that must be determined on the merits of each individual case after considering all facts. In no other way can the administration of this law be carried on without causing hardship and injustice to a large part of the people upon whose support in part Cepends the continuance of these laws on the statute books, not only of the various States, but of the Federal Government as well.
The second question concerns our attitude toward property holdings of applicants for aid.
The original Ohio law made it optional with the division whether or not it would require an applicant for aid to transfer his property or assign his insurance for the purpose of reimbursement of aid paid; and from the beginning we have required the transfer of property