Communities crumble and people can spiral downward into drug addiction when too many residents rely on Social Security disability payments, an Arkansas lawmaker said Monday.

Republican Sen. Tom Cotton linked the downfall of nearly two dozen counties in Arkansas to the climb in Social Security Disability Insurance during an appearance before conservative think tank, Heritage Foundation, in Washington, D.C.

“Population continues to fall, and a downward spiral kicks in, driving once thriving communities into decline,” he said. “Not only that, but once this kind of spiral begins, communities could begin to suffer other social plagues, such as heroin or meth addiction and associated crime.”

Arkansas has the third highest rate of disability usage, trailing West Virginia and Alabama, according to Cotton. The $200 billion annual program has become the largest source of income for residents in some counties.

Those areas have seen a population decline of more than 2 percent in the last four years as flourishing areas in the state with fewer residents on disability continue to grow, he said.

“It’s hard to say what came first or caused the other: population decline or increased disability usage. Or maybe economic stagnation caused both,” Cotton, 38, said. “Regardless, there seems to be, at least at the county or regional level, a Disability Tipping Point.”

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