Friday, February 15, 2019

Food for Thought: The Shutdown has Ended, Hunger in America Will Not

Janet Scardino, Comic Relief USA and Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, Feeding America, posted on 
Over the last several weeks, we all heard heart-wrenching stories of the government shutdown’s impact on the 800,000 furloughed federal workers and more than a million federal contract workers. Missing two paychecks or not getting paid at all also affected their families and children.  At Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, and Comic Relief USA, the non-profit behind the Red Nose Day campaign to end child poverty, the stories of people being forced to choose between covering their mortgage or feeding their family have been all too familiar.
These stories bear all the hallmarks of “episodic poverty,” where hard-working Americans, who may have never before experienced a major financial shortfall, suddenly find themselves unable to make ends meet for reasons outside of their control. Read more

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Report Released Today Finds More Low-Income Children Start Their Day With a Healthy School Breakfast; Too Many Still Missing Out

Press Release from the Food Research and Action Center

WASHINGTON, February 13, 2019 — More low-income children across the country are getting the nutrition they need to learn and thrive through the School Breakfast Program, according to the annual School Breakfast Scorecardreleased today by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC). See full press release and links to report details here

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Millions of U.S. Families Face Economic Uncertainty Despite Reports of a “Healthy Economy”

National and state level data from the 2019 Prosperity Now Scorecard shows that millions of families are just one emergency away from a financial disaster.


Despite headlines touting America’s booming economy, the reality is that millions in the US are living in financial uncertainty. An alarming number of families do not having the resources to withstand an economic downturn, which many analysts predict is around the corner.
The 2019 Prosperity Now Scorecard shows that too many families are either struggling to make ends meet, or are just one emergency away from a financial disaster. Forty percent of American households lack a basic level of savings. According to the Scorecard data, these “liquid asset poor” households don’t even have enough savings to live at the poverty level for three months if their income was interrupted. The data is even worse for people of color, with nearly 57% of households of color being liquid asset poor.
For the first time, the 2019 Scorecard ranks U.S. states on racial disparities—the gaps in 26 outcome measures between White residents and residents of color—and factors this into a state’s overall performance. Prosperity Now is increasing its focus on racial economic inequality because, as the data illustrates, structural inequality in the United States means that race and ethnicity have an outsized impact on economic well-being. Black, Latino, Native American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander people fare worse across all Scorecard outcomes and issues. 
The Scorecard also examines the policy choices of lawmakers at all levels of government. Additionally, it illustrates how those choices affect the ability of households—especially households of color and those with limited income—to create a more prosperous future. The Scorecardrecommends policies that first and foremost serve the individuals and families whose lives they intend to improve while also building economic strength and resiliency in the broader communities where we live together.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Pa.’s most vulnerable requires the continuation of the General Assistance program | Opinion

Pennsylvania’s General Assembly has a responsibility to protect the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians by preserving General Assistance, an inexpensive but incredibly effective program. Read the PennLive op-ed in its entirety here

Friday, February 1, 2019

It’s long past time to treat poor Pennsylvanians with the dignity they deserve

COMMENTARY - Opinion in the Philadelphia Inquirer by
Vincent Hughes and Gregory Holston
January 31, 2019 - 5:00 AM

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “the true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.” Unfortunately, Pennsylvania’s public policy too often sacrifices an ideology of human decency to the detriment of our most vulnerable citizens.

Last summer, a glimmer of hope was provided to Pennsylvania’s low-income and disabled populations when the state Supreme Court overruled the 2012 budget decision that eliminated the General Assistance program, which had been adopted by then-Gov. Tom Corbett and the Republican controlled legislature. That budget decision eliminated the General Assistance program in order to balance the 2012-13 budget. The General Assistance program provided about $205 per month in supplemental assistance to 62,000 low-income adults for an average of six months. This “fiscally responsible” decision brought a cost savings of $150 million in a $27.7 billion budget, pleasing a Republican party which continuously balances budgets on the backs of people most in need.

The folks who felt this hardhearted attack were temporarily or permanently disabled people, abuse victims, sons and daughters recovering from addictions – those suffering and in need of help. This relatively small amount of assistance was a lifeline to the 62,000 people who used the program because they were temporarily incapable of working due to their life situation.
The help they received was temporary in nature but monumental in its impact. We dare say it may have been lifesaving.

Cutting off this program was especially egregious when you understand the context: that very same year, Corbett and the Republican-controlled legislature cut business taxes and refused to impose a reasonable tax on Marcellus Shale drillers. The poor got poorer and the rich got richer, yet again.

When the Pennsylvania Supreme Court last July ruled Corbett and the Republicans unconstitutionally ended the General Assistance program, the path cleared for the General Assembly and the administration of Gov. Tom Wolf to right this six-year-old wrong, by reversing the decision to inflict pain on our most vulnerable to generate one half of one percent in budget savings.

To his credit, Gov. Wolf immediately reopened the General Assistance program and began providing a lifeline to thousands of Pennsylvania citizens in need.

We should also be making an aggressive attempt to locate those individuals who were cut off the from General Assistance program back in 2012, with the intent of getting them the support that was unconstitutionally taken away. If something was illegally and unconstitutionally taken from anyone of us, we would naturally seek full redress. That logic should be the same for these citizens.

Recently, the Wolf administration unveiled its proposal to redirect funding for the General Assistance program to address the commonwealth’s housing needs. While the goal of providing affordable housing is laudable and one we strongly support, redirecting funding from the General Assistance program raises serious concerns. Yes, these individuals need housing, but they also need the $208 they receive monthly under General Assistance to cover their basic needs. Moreover, they need the money that is rightfully due to them because of the unconstitutional actions of the Corbett administration and the Republican General Assembly.

Wolf’s commitment to our most vulnerable citizens is evident in the compassionate policies he has promoted throughout his first term. But, while we usually agree on most policy issues, this proposal raises serious questions for us and many other stakeholders. We propose a simple solution: Continue the General Assistance program that was unconstitutionally taken away from Pennsylvania’s most deserving citizens, pay folks what they are owed, and fund the affordable housing initiative that is so desperately needed. Right the moral wrong that occurred six years ago and take a new path on battling an impending housing crisis. It’s the right thing to do.

As the budget conversation unfolds, we must look at not only these issues but the general issue of poverty and deep poverty in Pennsylvania. I know the governor is committed to addressing these issues in his second term. There are no easy solutions. With this upcoming budget, Governor Wolf and the General Assembly have an opportunity to make a bold statement about how, in the words of Gandhi, our commonwealth will be measured as a society. We should take it.

Vincent J. Hughes is a member of the Pennsylvania State Senate, representing the 7th District since 1994. Rev. Gregory Holston, Executive Director of Philadelphians Organized to Witness Empower and Rebuild (POWER)

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

GENERAL ASSISTANCE THREATENED AGAIN

Many of you have been following the renewal of the General Assistance Program (GA) in Pennsylvania since last September when the PA Supreme Court ruled it’s elimination unconstitutional.  GA is up and running again through the Department of Human Services, but many of us have been concerned that Republicans in the General Assembly would try to kill it.  That’s exactly what’s happening. 

HB 33, sponsored by Rep. Dunbar, has been introduced to statutorily eliminate the program. Republicans have made “re-eliminating" GA their top priority. Even if they don’t eliminate the program in statute, Republicans are expected not to appropriate the $50 million the Wolf Administration estimates it needs for the program.  

Rather than fight this, the Administration is preparing a housing program to absorb the $50 million. They are proposing to re-appropriate the $50M estimated to fund general assistance (GA) cash payments to the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund (PHARE) with restrictions on allowable projects to target individuals who may have been eligible for GA cash. 

The additional housing that would be funded would be earmarked for the GA population and would be administered by PA’s 67 counties. The Wolf people are saying that the proposal to invest the $50M, which is the estimated annual cost to fulfill the General Assistance cash payments, is an alternative to the elimination of GA. It's an opportunity to ensure that the funding continues to benefit the most vulnerable populations in Pennsylvania.

There are lots of reasons this idea is wrongheaded.  First of all - Housing is not cash!!! Secondly, there is no way the PHARE program could help all the people who will qualify for GA.  Currently there are about 4,440 and PHARE couldn’t cover that many even with the $50 million.

Our friends at Community Legal Services are asking people to call the Governor and urge him not to say he’ll move the money to PHARE. It is a popular program that will get its own funding.

Ask the Governor to defend GA and not send a message that he’ll give in.

If you have questions, please contact Rich Weishaupt at CLS RWeishaupt@clsphila.org, 215-981-3773

Monday, January 14, 2019

Pennsylvania Announces Plans to Maintain Food Security Programs Through February Despite Federal Government Shutdown

January 14, 2019
Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller today announced that February benefits for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients will be dispersed on January 18, 2019, and will be available for use by January 19, 2019. The early payment follows an announcement from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) notifying states that benefits will be fully funded for the month of February, but benefits must be paid early. Read the entire DHS news release here.