Rodney, 28 years old
I’ve lost my job some years ago. The process of finding another is extremely difficult. Welfare has helped me stay afloat, paying rent in places that I’ve stayed. I messed up early in my twenties and didn’t want to fall to getting the aid of the state, but after awhile I had to. I was hungry for many days and almost got depressed enough to commit a crime to just eat. This wasn’t to support my drug or alcohol addiction, only to eat and pay to stay. There’s people that need it, and taking it away would be a travesty to this great nation of ours. This is a great country and helping people and nations is what we do.
Public assistance has helped me to stay out of a shelter facility. I rely on public assistance every month to pay my bills, personal hygiene and so on. Without it, I will no longer be able to pay my gas bill, have shampoo, soap to clean my apartment. I also have health issues and I use some of that money to get my prescriptions filled. Two of them are for a seizure disorder. I don’t understand why they are doing this. I will live in an apartment without gas, no personal hygiene supplies, cleaning supplies, money for prescriptions. I don’t know what I am to do. Please don’t cut this program I know for me it will be a hardship and I don’t want to end up in a shelter. Please help me and many others in my situation.
Tilynn, 47 years old
I am a 47 year old African American woman living with epilepsy and depression. I am single and have no family or friends that I can fall back on for help. Up until December 2009, I worked full time, and even though I didn’t earn much, I managed. After having to leave work because of my health, I’ve been on unemployment. It gave me barely enough to maintain my apartment and utilities. (Social Security decided I wasn’t disabled enough—in spite of my memory problems, trouble processing thoughts sometimes and problems with my mood). I was able to get $27.00 a month in food stamps. If I was lucky, I might have an extra $10-$20 at the end of the month. With this $27.00 a month though, I was able to eat—not name brands, snacks, produce and only a chicken or ground turkey or something like that. And, food pantries help some, but you have to be able to get to and from them. Transpasses are $22.00 a week, 5 tokens are $7.50, and this had to come out of whatever was left over from my unemployment. You also could only go two times a month.
I also had no medical insurance. My unemployment was more than would allow me to qualify—the medical assistance plan I was eligible for (the adult version of CHIP) would have cost $365 a month and has a two year waiting list. I had to wait three months for an initial exam at the public health department which is required before you can be seen—regardless of your need. You’re told to go to the ER if you have a problem. The E.R. won’t see you without a $50 co-pay unless its life threatening (i.e. a heart attack). I needed medication (for my epilepsy and depression)—neither of which was considered life threatening unless I was suicidal. Even if I had been seen for a seizure, I would have been lucky to get a couple doses (take two a day) of seizure meds—possible not even my usual brand.
The good news is that since my unemployment has run out, my food stamps have increased and I am eligible for health insurance temporarily. My monthly income is $200.00 a month [in General Assistance.] It doesn’t cover my rent or utilities but at least I can get meds, transpasses and a few other things I need.
Without any of the assistance I’ve gotten, I’d be homeless, starved and probably too ill to do anything. I wouldn’t have been able to make it through the last two years. It’s been tough, but it would be impossible without it. More now than ever.
My goals for the future? Right now it’s to keep a roof over my head. I’m $1400 behind on my rent. My land lady has been patient, but she can only be patient so long!
Getting a full-time job is equal on that list. ASAP. My biggest goal is to go back to school and get my master’s degree in health/social services (mental health). Funny how my dream has always been to help people. Life experience is a great teacher too!
Sandra, 58 years old
Currently I have chronic diabetes and neurological problems. When my husband collapsed on the job in 2009 and became disabled, we were without any income which resulted in our utilities being shut off and our being in imminent danger of being lost to back taxes. GA gave us a tenable existence, allowing us to have both our heat and house back. If this was to cease, and as we are on a day to day subsistence, we would lose everything. I strongly hope and suggest our Governor will refrain from taking this small budget cut from a vital program that if stopped will have a huge impact on so many lives.
Edwin, 57 years old
I have been receiving GA and MA [Medical Assistance] since January 2010 after suffering a pulmonary embolism and related injuries in December 2009. The subsequent loss of my job (1099 contractor, no unemployment) made it impossible to pay utilities without GA. MA coverage enabled ongoing treatment of my condition, as well as treatment for diabetes (insulin dependent) and arthritis. I am presently awaiting a decision on my SSA disability claim. Once my condition improves, I anticipate entering the workforce once again. In my case, the availability of GA and MA made the difference between recovery and succumbing to life threatening illnesses. If the GA and MA programs were eliminated, it would be difficult to impossible to afford the prescriptions and medical follow up necessary to monitor my condition.
Needless to say, I am firmly convinced that cutting or eliminating the GA and MA programs would remove the only safety net keeping many Pennsylvanians from serious illness or death.
I received General Assistance for seven months because I was homeless, and I needed money for shelter fees. I received General Assistance while I was waiting for my SSI benefits to start. I used the money for rent, food, toiletries, and was able to save up a little money.
If I didn’t have this money during this hard time I wouldn’t have been able to get clothes, toiletries, and would have literally been on the streets. The money allowed me to get back on my feet and get into the housing that I’m currently in. If this program is cut more people will be on the streets and homeless. If this is cut it will be a tragedy. People won’t be able to pay shelter fees or save up money to get their own housing.
I now live at Project HOME and this money allowed me to get here. In the end, with SSI, the government gets the General Assistance money back, so cutting this program makes no sense. Right now I am working at Kairos House and in the future I would like to own my own business.
I receive GA because of my disability, and I am permanently disabled. I am currently waiting to get approved for SSI. I have major depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and congestive heart failure.
I am not able to work with my disability and currently rely on General Assistance. I want to speak out against these cuts. Without General Assistance I would be back on the streets and denied life saving medication. I take five heart medications a day and need General Assistance to survive.
I try to empower others to stand up for their health. One of my goals is to stay healthy and do whatever my doctor says I need to do for my health. I do not know what the future holds yet. I want to keep working hard to achieve these goals. These cuts are terrible and will have a terrible impact on people’s lives.
If it had not been for GA, I would have not recovered from drugs and alcohol 25 years ago. I would not hold a Master of Human Services and be 4 credits short of getting a Bachelors in Addiction and Behavioral Disorders.
I would not have held my current position as a Supervisor in a Member Services Unit for the last 15 years, helping others that have mental health and/or drug and alcohol problems.
I not only benefitted from GA, but am in a position to assist others by disclosing my past and my current life.
I am a true believer that people recover. I am living proof. I raised 2 children, and I am helping to raise 5 grandchildren. So when I hear that GA is at risk, what I really hear is that people are going to be at risk if GA is altered in any way.
You may think that GA is a waste, but I am one of many that have utilized the benefit to improve my life and help others do the same.
The proposed reductions are expected to hit hard people trying to overcome addictions. At West Mount Airy’s Interim House, program director Kathy Wellbank says general and medical assistance pays for the majority of care for her clients.
Many of them are victims of “the most horrific” physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, leading them to drink and use drugs, she said. She fears medical-assistance cuts and tightened eligibility will hurt her program.
Tiffany David, 23, receives therapy at Interim. She said she did not know how she would complete her recovery without general assistance.
David celebrated a year of sobriety March 8. She is working to get her high-school degree and says she eventually wants to work as a beautician or as a medical assistant in a doctor’s office.
For now, her recovery includes three weekly therapy sessions and daily Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, leaving no time for a job.
For inspiration, David need only look to Virginia Williams Hanible. Five years ago, Hanible came to Interim House in handcuffs after decades as a prostitute, drug user, and thief.
“When I came here, I said I will never be in handcuffs again,” she recalled.
Abused in foster care, she had her first child at 16. She had returned to her mom’s house by that time but ran away, overwhelmed at the prospect of parenthood.
Medical assistance paid for her treatment at Interim House, where for the first time she was diagnosed as diabetic and bipolar. General assistance went toward court costs and a security deposit when she left treatment there. With five years of sobriety behind her, she has regained custody of her son, 12, made amends with her adult daughter, and has been married to her high-school sweetheart for 15 months.
Today, she is a peer counselor at Interim House.
Read the full story by clicking here.
I would like to address my gratitude to General Assistance. I’ve been away for awhile. When I got back, I had nothing. I applied for General Assistance. It has helped me tremendously.
I heard about the issue of eliminating cash for single men and women without children. This is going to affect a lot of people that depend on that $205 per month. It’s not a lot, but it helps to pay the bills, and clothe ourselves.
Right now, I’m having trouble finding work. I have no one to assist me besides General Assistance. I’m changing my lifestyle. I’m in recovery. I’m striving to stay clean and sober and not resort back to my old lifestyle. And the $205 every month allows me not to go backward but move forward. Please would you reconsider your decision on eliminating General Assistance to single men and women? Thank you in advance for listening to my plea for help.