Advocates For Poor Say Pa. Assistance Cuts Will Hit Philadelphia Hardest
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By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia residents are expected to be especially hard hit following a $150-million cut in state general assistance signed last month by Gov. Tom Corbett.
The cuts in aid to 61,000 poor Pennsylvanians go into effect July 31st.
Billie Washington, 52, is one of the 35,000 Philadelphians who found out for the first time this week that they will not get a check on August 1st.
“It’s only $205 a month,” says Washington. “But it pays a portion of my rent, my toiletries, to get cleaning supplies, to get my clothes cleaned.”
Washington worked as a food server for years before contracting debilitating athritis that makes it difficult for her to use her hands.
“I have sharp pain. I am always in pain,” she says. “On a scale of one to ten, I am an ‘eight’ most days, and some days I hit a nine.” She says the general assistance funds were her sole source of income as she awaits approval for Social Security benefits.
Community Legal Services attorney Michael Froehlich is a part of the PA Cares for All coalition, which fought to save general assistance funding. He says all Philadelphians could soon feel the impact of the cuts to this program.
“People will no longer be able to pay their rent and will flood the shelter system, will flood the homeless services providers, will flood the places of worship,” he says. “It doesn’t make sense to eliminate a program that keeps people off the streets and housed that only costs $200 a month. But instead, we’ll end up spending $1,000 a month for people who are going to be accessing the shelter system. And in a worst-case scenario, some of these people will turn to the criminal justice system, where it’ll take $3,000 a month to keep them housed in jail.”
A Department of Public Welfareofficial says lawmakers were looking for places to cut and the state-funded program was ripe for the picking.