Phila City Paper: Welfare cuts push Philly’s poor to the brink

OUT OF ALL of Opal Gibson’s problems, losing $205 per month — the General Assistance payments she had received from the state until this August — is not the biggest. Gibson, 59, lost her job drawing blood at Einstein Hospital in 2010, soon after her son died falling from a three-story building while intoxicated; she lives with hepatitis C she thinks she contracted on the job; and she is recovering from drug addiction. But the end of General Assistance, consigned to oblivion by Gov. Tom Corbett and the Republican legislature this year, has made her problems much worse.

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Pennsylvanians with Disabilities Sue to Restore General Assistance & Other Critical Human Services

PHILADELPHIA, PA — Three low-income Pennsylvanians with disabilities, Billie Washington, Opal Gibson, and Tina Smith, filed a lawsuit in Commonwealth Court today seeking to challenge Act 80, signed by the Governor on June 30, 2012. Act 80 eliminated the General Assistance cash grants of about $200 per month that enabled 68,000 Pennsylvanians to pay their rent and eat. Act 80 also creates a pilot block grant program that allows 20 selected counties to shift tens of millions of dollars for already underfunded mental health and intellectual disability services to pay for other services.

These individuals are joined by multiple advocacy and membership organizations for Pennsylvanians with intellectual disabilities and mental illness and people seeking treatment for addiction, including the Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers’ Association, the Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania, the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania, The Philadelphia Alliance, the Drug and Alcohol Service Providers Organization of Pennsylvania, and the Pennsylvania Community Providers Association. They are also joined by Success Against All Odds, a statewide membership organization that helps low-income families obtain education and training.

The lawsuit alleges that the legislative process through which Act 80 was enacted violates the Pennsylvania Constitution for multiple reasons: Read more

Lancaster Online: “Pa.’s unkindest cut gets one-month delay”

Pa.’s unkindest cut gets one-month delay
Jul 01, 2012
By GIL SMART, Associate Editor

Valerie Case was talking to a military veteran last week who received notice from the state Department of Public Welfare that his “General Assistance” monthly cash payment of $215 was being terminated. The vet, who had recently applied for Social Security disability benefits, was happy — thinking the state was cutting him off because Social Security had ruled in his favor.
Case, a paralegal at MidPenn Legal Services, broke the news gently: Social Security hadn’t ruled yet.

But Pennsylvania had, and the vet — and nearly 70,000 other Pennsylvanians who count on the monthly stipend — are being cut off.

The budget, signed by Gov. Tom Corbett last night, eliminated the $150 million General Assistance program, which since the Great Depression has provided cash assistance to single people. The program was initially slated to end today, July 1, but Democrats won a one-month delay so the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare can notify recipients — including 1,518 people in Lancaster County — that they will lose benefits.

Local social service providers are bracing for impact.

“We have a substantial number of clients who are going to be affected by this,” said Bob Thomas, president of Tabor Community Services in Lancaster. “People are very bewildered — they’re not sure what they’re going to do.”

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Phila Inquirer editorial: “Pa. cuts to needy make no sense”

Pa. cuts to needy make no sense
Sunday, July 1, 2012

EXCERPT:

When it comes to setting priorities, Gov. Corbett and lawmakers in Harrisburg have put the most needy in the state at the bottom of the list….

The inhumane cuts target the poor and will likely exacerbate conditions that will end up costing the state even more money to correct in the long run. The cash-assistance program has been around since the Great Depression….

When you consider that it costs about $1,000 a month to house someone in a city homeless shelter — about five times the cost of general assistance — and most shelters are at capacity, the cuts make no sense. It’s a shame that the poor are such easy targets.

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Tribune Review: “Some could lose temporary cash benefit to state budget cuts”

Some could lose temporary cash benefit to state budget cuts
Mary Ann Thomas

Saturday, June 23, 2012

EXCERPT:

“Two-hundred-dollars a month doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is when it’s something that you won’t have,” said Bob Boehn, 47, of Kenneth Avenue in Arnold.

Boehn’s blindness was caused by complications of eye cancer.

The cut in his cash assistance will make it difficult for him to pay for transportation, Boehn said.

Since he is blind, access to public transportation already is difficult and limited, especially just getting out the door to reach public buses.

“I can’t walk out of here,” Boehn said. “I’m stranded here,” he said of living in a second-floor apartment. “I got nothing.”

He needs a ride, which costs money, just to reach public transportation to go to a job or retraining.

“It’s going to kill me,” Boehn said. “It’s hard when they take programs away. You’re screwed.”

He continues to look for work, explore retraining and returning to a public high-rise apartment building where access to services is easier.

To read full story, click here.

Phila Inquirer Op-Ed: “Gov. Corbett’s easy attack on Pennsylvania’s weakest”

Gov. Corbett’s easy attack on Pennsylvania’s weakest
Jake Blumgart
June 25, 2012

EXCERPT:

It’s hard to imagine a less politically connected group than the low-income people helped by general assistance. In Pennsylvania, they include the temporarily disabled, those caring for elderly or disabled relatives, domestic violence victims, and recovering addicts (the last two subject to a nine-month lifetime limit).

To read full article, click here.

Shippensburg Univ Professor: Legislators need courage to do the right thing at budget time 

Legislators need courage to do the right thing at budget time
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Steven Burg, professor of history at Shippensburg University.

Soon our elected officials are going to vote for a state budget for the next fiscal year. That vote directly affects us all. We need to watch and see whether our legislators pass a budget that truly serves the needs of the commonwealth’s citizens and communities.

Some of the key issues to be watched: ….

Additionally, the elimination of General Assistance will remove the safety net of last resort that helps sick or disabled adults without minor children, domestic violence survivors and adults caring for sick or disabled relatives. If the Legislature chooses to cut General Assistance, the financial savings will scarcely make up for the cost of the resulting human suffering in our community.

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Harrisburg United Way President: Eliminating General Assistance “would be devastating”

Midstaters show concern over human service cuts
Joseph Capita, President of United Way of the Capital Region

Harrisburg Patriot-News Op-Ed

Sat, June 9, 2012

As are many in the commonwealth, United Way of the Capital Region was concerned and dismayed when details of the Corbett administration’s proposed state budget were released.

It called for combining seven separate human service funding streams into one and cutting the total allocation by 20 percent as well as discontinuing the General Assistance program. Cuts of this magnitude would be devastating to the clients of many agencies that already are in a dire situation.

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Rally speakers protest elimination of General Assistance

Elizabeth Hersh from the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania and Michael Froehlich from Community Legal Services speak to a rally on Tuesday, June 5, 2012 to protest the elimination of General Assistance and the cuts to human services programs.  The rally was sponsored by the Pennsylvania Community Providers Association and the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Harrisburg Bishop Joseph McFadden: “Where will these people turn?”

The poor and state budget: Where will these people turn?
Harrisburg Bishop Joseph McFadden

General Assistance is another program threatened with elimination. The GA program supports our most vulnerable citizens — people with no other income who are disabled or sick adults without children, domestic violence survivors, adults caring for someone who is sick or disabled, adults participating in drug and alcohol treatment programs or children living with an unrelated adult.

The monthly GA benefit usually amounts to about $205, a sum that has not been increased for 22 years. Fewer than one in 200 Pennsylvanians receive this benefit, but for those who do, it is a lifeline. …

At Catholic Charities, we will continue to answer our call to “feed the hungry and clothe the poor.”

We need our state leaders to show concern for the poor in the state budget by providing funding for vital programs that serve the poorest of the poor.

Click here to read the complete op-ed.